Snakes are a common danger to dogs, as they often like to sun themselves in warm, open areas where dogs are likely to be. Adders are the only venomous snake in the UK, and their bites can be fatal to dogs. The good news is that adder bites are rare, but it is still essential to be aware of their dangers. This blog post will discuss the dangers of adder bites and how you can protect your dog from them.

Adders in the UK

Adders are the only venomous snake species native to the United Kingdom, and they are relatively small, averaging around 50cm in length. They are generally a brown or grey colour, with dark zigzag markings running down their backs. Adders typically live in woodlands or heaths and prefer areas with lots of cover, such as long grass or thick undergrowth.

Females give birth to live young (up to 20 at a time), and the young snakes are independent from birth. Adders are carnivorous, feeding mainly on small mammals such as rodents, but they will also eat reptiles, amphibians, birds, and invertebrates.

Unlike some other snake species, adders are not aggressive and will only bite if they feel threatened. Adders are venomous, but their bite is usually not fatal to humans. However, it can still be painful, so it’s important to be careful if you come across one.

What Does An Adder Look Like

The adder is a relatively small snake, less than a metre in length. It is typically brown or grey in colour, with a black zigzag pattern running down its back. It has a distinctive V on the top of its head.

Signs Of An Adder Bite

If you think an adder has bitten your dog, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Look for the following possible signs and symptoms:

  • swelling at the site of the bite, which can be slight or severe
  • panicked/ nervous
  • panting/drooling
  • make painful noises (such as yelping or whining)
  • abnormal bleeding
  • bruising
  • lameness and/or paralysis
  • difficulty breathing/collapse

While adder bites are not usually fatal to dogs, they can cause great pain and suffering. With prompt medical treatment, however, most dogs make a full recovery.

What should I do if an Adder bites my dog?

Adders are venomous, but their bite is usually not fatal to humans. However, dogs can be killed by their bite. If an adder bites your dog, it is essential to seek veterinary attention immediately. Snakebites should always be treated as an emergency

The sooner you can get your dog to the vet, the better their chances of survival. Whilst you may believe you can just administer an antihistamine, you cannot administer anti-venom, and your dog may need it. Only your vet will have access to this, so don’t waste time.

Adders are quick to strike, and their venom is very potent, so it is vital to act fast if you suspect your dog has been bitten. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help your dog.

  1. Carry your dog to reduce the spread of the adder’s venom around your dog’s body. Stillness saves lives. If you can, try to take your dog to the car. If their weight is too much to carry, ask someone for help.
  2. If you have an instant ice pack, apply it to the swollen area. This will help to control the swelling and slow down the venom spreading. If possible, gently wash the wound in cold water. Do not apply any bandages or try to tourniquet the area.
  3. Keep your dog comfortable and quiet as you transport him to the vet. They may be in shock. As you transport your dog, if possible, call your vet and inform them you are coming in with a possible snake bite.
  4. Finally, don’t attempt any first aid as this can do more harm than good. Instead, following these simple steps can help ensure that your dog gets the treatment he needs as quickly as possible.

Carrying An Antihisamine

One of the most common treatments for adder bites is the administration of chlorphenamine tablets, which can be purchased at most pharmacies. In addition, Chlorphenamine can be found in Piriton Allergy Tablets.

It is important to note that these tablets should only be given to your dog if specifically instructed to do so by a vet, as they can cause side effects such as drowsiness and vomiting. However, if used correctly, they can help reduce swelling and pain at the bite site.

When allergic reactions occur, the body releases histamines. Chlorphenamine works by blocking the action of histamines, which reduces the symptoms of an allergic reaction. When calling your vet, ask whether they would like you to administer these tablets to your dog. Following your vet’s recommendations can help ensure your dog receives the best care possible.

You can also carry these as shown here:

Size Matters

It is common knowledge that different-sized animals react differently to various stimuli; this also rings true when considering the difference in reaction between small and large dogs to an adder bite. A small dog’s blood vessels are narrower than those of a larger dog, meaning that the venom has less space to disperse and cause damage, and therefore the effects of an adder bite are usually far more significant on a small dog than on a large dog.

Another factor to consider is that a small dog’s circulation system is much more rapid than a large dog’s, so the venom circulates much faster and causes greater tissue damage. In short, an adder bite is usually far more dangerous to a small dog than a large dog. Therefore, we need to watch out for all our dogs and be extra vigilant when it comes to smaller breeds.

Preventing Your Dog From An Adder Bite

You can do a few things to prevent your dog from being bitten by an adder. First, keep your dog on a leash when hiking or walking in areas where snakes are known to live, especially in the summer months and when the grass is long or the ground is warm for them to bask. This will help ensure your dog does not come into contact with a snake.

Second, if you are training or leave off-leash in areas, choose areas that are busy with very little grass coverage. Adders are shy creatures and tend to avoid areas of high noise. Walk the field/area first with your dog on a leash, maybe doing some heelwork and whistling. Making noise can scare away any you cannot see.

For further increased protection, you can add a small collar bell to your dog’s collar, making noise as they move about, which will also encourage the adder to move away. Do not encourage your dog to enter brash for retrieves. Make sure you have trained a strong ‘leave-it’ command. If you see a snake, make sure to keep your dog away from it.

Lastly, Check out the National Biodiversity Network Map. The distribution of Adder population throughout the UK varies greatly, which can indicate populations in your area.

LWDG Summertime Series: Keeping your dog safe during the summertime months

The summertime months are a great time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather with your dog. However, it’s important to take some precautions to keep your furry friend safe. Heatstroke (article here) , is a real danger for dogs, so be sure to provide plenty of water and shade when you’re out and about. You should also be careful of sunburn, especially on short-haired breeds. We also have an older post here Stopping Your Restless Working Dog From Overheating

If you’re hiking or walking in long grass, be on the lookout for grass seeds (article on this here), which can cause irritation and even infection. And finally, be aware that adder bites are more common in the summer months (article on this here), If you suspect your dog has been bitten, seek medical attention immediately. By taking some simple steps, you can help ensure that your dog enjoys a safe and fun summer.

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