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Adder bites in dogs

Adder bites in dogs

Why, where and when do adders bite dogs?

Snake bites and adder bites in dogs are uncommon, but do occasionally happen. In the UK, the adder is the only native venomous snake and they will only attack if threatened, usually during the spring and summer months and interestingly most commonly these snake bites occur between 3-4pm in the afternoon. Snake bites, in particular the adder species generally happen around the legs, feet or the face of dog after they have been rooting around in the undergrowth or long grass and have disturbed the adder.

What do adders look like?

Both the male and female adder species have a unique dark zig-zag pattern running down their spine, with the males tending to be grey and females light brown. They can grow up to 70cm long and have a V pattern on their heads. Very occasionally adders can be black and might be mistaken for other species.

Where do adders live?

Adders are found in several different habitats including sand dunes, moors, meadows, open countryside, rocky hillsides and around the edges of woodland.

Symptoms of an adder bite in your dog

Symptoms of a bite usually include a rapid and painful swelling localised around two small puncture marks (however, these may not always be visible due to the swelling). Other symptoms that your dog has been bitten by an adder include pale gums, salivating, lethargy and vomiting or diarrhoea. More serious complications are uncommon but deaths from adder bites do occur in dogs. In 2015 there were 101 reported cases of adder bites in dogs to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service and sadly 5 of the dogs died. Therefore, if you suspect your dog has been bitten by an adder or any type of snake, veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

Treating your dog for an adder bite

First thing, do not panic. The best course of action is to keep the dog as calm and quiet as possible, if your able to try to carry your dog or restrict them from moving too much (as this aids the spread of the venom in the bloodstream). Next, without hesitation take them to the nearest vets as quickly as possible. Pain killers and a strong anti-inflammatory injection will usually sort out the problem. Occasionally, if it is available an adder bite anti-venom may be recommended. Currently there is no authorised product in the UK to treat adder bites in animals, and the human product has to be imported. As it is used so rarely not all practices keep a stock of it. However, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service has teamed up with Vet’s Now to ensure there are stocks of it available 24 hours a day across the UK.

More information:

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service, 

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