Skip to main content

Sub navigation

Adder Bites

The Adder (Vipera berus) is the only venomous snake native to the UK. It is most commonly found in the south and southInformative image: Adder Vipera Beris west of England, western Wales and Scotland, but increasingly we are hearing reports of them being spotted  in our area. It is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; this mean that it is an offence to kill, harm, injure, sell or trade them.

Other snakes native to the UK are the grass snake, the smooth snake and the slow worm, but none of these show the same zigzag pattern on their body.

The adder is actually a timid, non-aggressive snake, and will only bite when provoked. They hibernate over the winter, emerge in early spring as the temperature rises,and give birth to live young late in August or early September.

Adder venom is a toxic cocktail of enzymes; the adder injects this into its prey when it bites in order to subdue it before it eats it.

Dogs are curious by nature, especially pups, and can unintentionally provoke an adder into biting. Most bites are usually around the face or forelimbs and occur most commonly in the afternoon; when the adders are most active.

If your dog is bitten you will usually find swelling at the bite site, usually within two hours. Other possible symptoms including pain, bruising, bleeding and lameness.

If venom is absorbed into the system it will cause a widespread inflammatory reaction leading to symptoms such as lethargy, fever, increased heart and breathing  rates, drooling, vomiting and a wobbly on their legs.

In less than 5% of cases we can see severe systemic effects. These include problems breathing, collapse, convulsions, kidney failure, liver injury, bleeding disorders, shock and an abnormal heart rhythm.

The severity of the signs and the speed of recovery varies depending upon the location of the bite (facial bites are more serious), the size of the patient (small patients tend to be more severely affected), the amount and potency of the venom the amount the patient moves around after the bite (movement increases venom uptake into the patient’s circulation), and the speed of veterinary treatment

What should you do if your dog is bitten?

Most importantly, DO NOT PANIC, your dog is highly likely to make a full recovery if treated promptly and correctly. It is important, where possible, to reduce the movement of your dog following a bite to try and reduce the spread of venom around his body; ideally carry your dog or walk quietly back to your vehicle. Bathe the wound in cold water to help control the swelling and keep your dog quiet and warm as you transport him to get treatment. Ring your nearest veterinary surgery and make arrangements to be seen promptly. If a bite goes unnoticed, but you are suspicious that a bite may have occurred and see symptoms developing-ring your vet without delay and seek veterinary attention, even if it is outside of normal opening hours.

Note -

•    Most adder bites occur between April and July

•    If your dog is bitten, minimize their movement and seek veterinary attention without delay

•    The most common signs are significant swelling at the site of the bite, with some signs of depression and lethargy

•    Few patients display more severe signs

•    96-97% make a full recovery, usually within five days.

Back Forward Home Print Close

Please wait... loading