We have received reports of the first adder bite of the year, in a dog walking in the Ashdown Forest. Luckily he made a full recovery, but here is some useful information about these dangerous snakes.
The European adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK. Adults are about 50cm long, with a zigzag pattern along their back and a V or X shaped marking on the back of the head. Their preferred habitats are sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and woodland edges.
Adder bites are fairly rare. Snakes generally only bite in self-defence, so normally bites occur when a snake is stepped on or disturbed by your dog. Most adder bites occur between April and July, usually in the afternoon when the adders are most active.
Curious puppies and young dogs are most likely to get bitten, and bites are usually to the legs or face.
There will be swelling around the wound, often dark in colour, and you may be able to see the two puncture wounds in the middle of the swelling. The swelling can be very marked, and you may also see signs such as pain, bleeding, bruising and lameness. In some cases, the venom can cause systemic effects such as lethargy, fever, drooling, vomiting, and even collapse and seizures.
In the event of your dog being bitten by an adder:
- Contact your vet straight away to let them know what has happened, and your estimated time of arrival. This will give them time to prepare emergency treatments.
- Carry your dog to the car rather than allow him to walk, to reduce the chance of spreading the venom around the body.
- Keep your dog calm and warm on the journey to the vet.
- If you have time, and an extra pair of hands, you can bathe the wound in cold water to help control the swelling.
Treatment will usually include pain relief, intravenous fluids, hospitalisation and possibly the administration of anti-venom. Even though the signs can be severe, around 97% of cases survive with the appropriate treatment. Recovery times can vary from 24 hours to 30 days, with an average time to full recovery of 5 days.
If you know or suspect, your dog has been bitten by an adder, please contact your vet immediately. Our dedicated emergency service is available at all times at our Sevenoaks Hospital and can be contacted on 01732 452344.