Posted on 10th May, 2017































Ah, the summer….  For us dog walkers it’s a time of extra enjoyment, rarely do you need your wellies anymore as you stroll through the fields and scrub…. I’ll let them off for a run! A few moments later you hear a squeal but think nothing of it, they’re always running though the brambles.


A few years back I had the misfortune to step on an adder whilst out with my pooches. All was fine, but the dogs were fascinated with this wriggly creature. Its that time of year when the weather gets warmer that the adder comes out of hibernation and likes to sun itself on the grassland. This means they lie still taking in the sun and warming up, that is until your dog comes along and steps on one. Did you know the adder is the only venomous snake in the UK?? Adders are found all throughout the UK and are a protected species so it is illegal to kill or injure them. They like to live in areas of rough, open countryside and are often associated with woodland edge habitats.


The adder is easily recognised by a dark ‘zig-zag’ stripe along its back. Background colours vary from grey – white in the male to shades of brown or copper in the female. On occasion, completely black specimens are described. They can grow to around 60cm in length and have a rather stocky appearance.


Adders are timid creatures so will not usually bite unless they feel threatened or cornered or stood on accidentally and they usually try to move away from any perceived threat. Sadly our dogs are usually bitten whilst exploring the undergrowth around them.

Most adder encounters occur during their active season between March and October, although I have had some in the hospital in February too.


 Back to the squeal from earlier…….. You get  home and notice that your pet seems a little  quieter than normal, maybe there is some  swelling on an leg or lip. Your pet is a little  tender and when you look at him you notice a  small hole (usually two)  you may not see  anything but he’s not right…. Unless you  actually see an adder bite your pet you may not  notice anything until a few hours later,  you will  notice some swelling around the site. Your pet  may be lame, there may also be bruising or bleeding around the area of the bite. The longer your pet is left untreated the worse it can be….. If venom is absorbed into the bloodstream this could lead to other signs such as lethargy, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty walking. In some cases pets are more severely affected with breathing problems, convulsions, kidney failure, liver injury and bleeding disorders.


If you think that your pet has been bitten by an adder (or you suspect that it may have been) you should seek prompt veterinary attention. Do not try first aid measures such as sucking out the venom or applying a tourniquet – these procedures are ineffective and may even cause further harm to your pet.


Try to keep your pet calm and wherever possible carry your dog rather than let it walk. Both these measures will help slow the spread of venom around the body.


With veterinary  treatment most pets will survive but whether they recover and how quickly they recover depends on several factors  -how quickly they receive veterinary attention, the size of the pet- smaller pets are more at risk, where the bite is- facial bites are worse and excessive swelling around the head and neck can cause breathing difficulties, and the strength of venom injected -venom is thought to be more toxic earlier in the year. Elderly pets and those with existing medical problems also tend to be more likely to have a poorer prognosis.


If you are unsure what an adder looks like you can check out the website for easy identification. They have a superb guide for snakes. 

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