With over 800 adders attacks on dogs every year I thought it was important to help raise awareness of the issue and provide some useful information on them in general…
The Adder (Vipera berus) is the only venomous snake native to the UK.
How to spot an Adder?
Thy can be anywhere from 40-70cm in length and males range in colour from pale grey to dark brown whereas females may be olive green, yellow or reddy brown. Irrespective of colour they are all recognizable by their dorsal zigzag pattern with a V or X shape on the head.
When and where are you like to find an Adder?
Adders are most commonly found in the south and south west of England, western Wales and Scotland. They tend to hang out in sand dunes, heathland, rocky hillsides, moorland and also woodland edges.
They hibernate over the winter, emerge in early spring as the ambient temperature increases, mate late April or early May and give birth to live young late in August or early September.
Are our dogs at risk from Adders?
Unfortunately, as most of our four legged friends tend to be quite nosey they can often disturb adders in their natural habitats. Most bites are naturally facial or forelimb with 70% of bites occurring between April and July. Adders tend to be most active in the afternoon.
How to know if your dog has been bitten by an Adder?
Roughly 97% of bitten patients show symptoms; the remaining 3% are presumed to have received ‘dry bites’. All symptomatic patients show local effects, typically swelling and at the bite site, usually within two hours. Other possible symptoms including pain, bruising, bleeding and lameness.
If venom is absorbed into the lymphatic system and then the systemic circulation it will cause a widespread inflammatory reaction leading to symptoms such as lethargy, fever, increased heart and respiratory rates, drooling, vomiting and unsteadiness on the legs.
In less than 5% of cases vets report severe systemic effects such as problems breathing, collapse, convulsions, kidney failure, liver injury, bleeding disorders, shock and an abnormal heart rhythm.
What should you do if your dog is bitten by an Adder?
If your dog is bitten, minimize their movement (carrying them if possible to reduce the circulation of any venom in their blood stream) and seek veterinary attention without delay.
Try not to panic. 96-97% of bite patients make a full recovery, usually within five days.
Please note Adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to kill, harm or injure them, and to sell or trade them in any way.