Here in the UK, the European adder is the only known venomous snake that we have. The adult adder can grow upto two feet long and have a black or brown zigzag pattern along their back and a V-shaped marking on the back of their head.
You will usually see adders on areas of dry sandy heaths, sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and woodland edges, particularly in the south and south-east of England. When bitten, they will usually inject the victim with around 1ml of venom.
An adder won’t go out of its way to bite a person or a dog but will do so in self-defence when feeling threatened. The bites usually happen when the snake has accidently been stepped on or is caught off-guard. Bites are more frequent in the spring when the snakes are just out of hibernation. However, cases are also seen throughout the summer as adders become more active when the weather improves.
Adder Bite Symptoms
If your dog is bitten by an adder, it will typically result in swelling that’s dark in colour. This swelling can become increasingly worse which, depending on the location of the swelling, can result in difficulty breathing. You may not always be able to actually see the puncture wounds in the centre of the swelling. Your dog will also show signs of pain and may appear nervous.
Other signs include:
- Pale gums
- Drowsiness, and
Eventually, if left untreated, dogs may collapse, have blood clotting problems, tremors or convulsions.
What to do if Your Dog is Bitten by an Adder
If you know that your dog has been bitten by an adder it is important that you seek veterinary attention as quickly as possible. Don’t allow your dog to walk but instead carry him to try and reduce the speed at which the venom will spread throughout his body. Bathe the wound in cold water to help control the swelling and keep your dog quiet and warm as you transport him to the vet.
Once at the vet, your dog will most probably be treated for shock and swelling and will be given pain relief. If available, anti-venom will also be administered. Most adder bite cases survive with appropriate treatment. One study into adder bites in dogs found fewer than one in 20 died as a result.