Here’s a sure sign that Summer’s coming: The adders are out!
Having had the worst case of ‘I don’t know what to do’ when Harvey had his Mushroom Experience a couple of years ago - I thought I’d do a bit of research to find out more about adders and what to do if we ever did have to deal with a bite situation. Let's face it, we're always getting ourselves into pickles me and my dogs, so it's always good to be forearmed – and as it’s good to share, I thought I would.
Adders are the UKs only native venomous snake, and whilst their bites are incredibly painful, they are rarely fatal. However, there are steps that should be followed to give your dog the best chance of full recovery should he/she succumb to the fang!
A female adder. Photograph © Stuart Shore - www.wightwildlife.co.uk
Now of course, this info is directed to dog owners – but it’s still relevant for humans too (especially our little ones who are just as inquisitive of new things during walks!)
There are around 100 reported cases of adder bite a year in the UK - but, it’s important to note that adders are lovers, not fighters. Biting is their very last means of defence and given the choice, they will move away from you before attacking.
The key is, if you find an adder on your walk, give it space and the room to get away. Unfortunately, dogs tend to be nosey and inquisitive, and will often mither an adder trying to work out what it is. Unsurprisingly, adders don’t like that, and if the adder feels threatened, it is likely to strike.
Adders are active from around March - October. They will come out of hibernation in the Spring, ready for some lurve time! As the days warm up, they will find their way to the sunniest spots to recharge. They are mostly found in rough open countryside, woodland edges, sand dunes, riverbanks and heathland.
With the highest number of reported bites being in the Spring/Summer (peaking in the Summertime) it’s best to be prepared. In places where adders have been sighted, keep dogs on short leads close to you.
Male adders are lighter in colour than the female of the species; being almost white/grey with a black distinctive zig-zag running down its back. The female is brown with deep brown markings. They grow to around 50-60cm long.
A male adder, note the difference in colour to the female. Photograph courtesy of www.nhs.uk
So, what should you do if your dog is bitten?
- Never try to remove the venom – and do not use a tourniquet – these actions can make the situation worse and are often ineffective.
- Keep the dog calm and the bite area as still as possible.
- If at all possible, carry the dog. By keeping the dog calm, keeping the bite area still, and carrying the dog, you will be helping to slow down the spread of venom in the bloodstream. If you are unable to lift your dog, walk calmly back to the car/to the vet.
- Seek immediate veterinary attention.
If you’re not sure whether your dog has been bitten – some of the symptoms include:
- Localised swelling from the bite (often to muzzle/legs)
- Showing signs of pain
- Salivation/dribbling/vomiting and diarrhoea
- Dehydration and restlessness
To be able to give your dog the best chance of a full recovery, take him/her to the vets immediately if they show any of the above symptoms during/after a walk.
And finally (and most importantly), don’t panic! Remember, cases of fatalities from adder bites are rare, and most cases are fully treatable with the appropriate and immediate care.
Adders are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to kill, harm or injure them.