With lockdown set to continue for now, it isn't just humans and their dogs looking to be out and about more for their daily exercise. Around April time, Adders are beginning to wake up and enjoy some of the warmer weather too.
Adders ( Vipera berus berus)
Adders are the only venomous snakes native to the UK, varying in size from 40 to 80cm in length. They are quite distinquisable from other non - venomous snakes by the zig zag pattern on their backs or the v or x shape markings on their head. It has a red eye and is the only native reptile to have the vertical split pupil.
It is rare for dogs to get bitten and adders only attack in self defence. Common habitats are; woodland edges, rocky hillsides, sand dunes and moorlands.
Adders are actually protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which means it is an offence to harm, injure, sell, trade or kill them.
As most dogs are naturally curious especially when out on a walk, they can provoke an attack without meaning to. If an adder bites, it can inject venom commonly into the dogs face, neck or forelegs. This can result in swelling around the wound usually within 1 to 2 hours. If a dog is bitten on the face, it may lead to swelling which can compromise breathing. Other signs may show as, pain, lameness and bleeding.
If the venom has been absorbed into the rest of the the body, it can cause a widespread inflammatory reaction leading to fever, rapid heart rate/respiration, drooling and vomiting.
If your dog is unfortunate to have been bitten, try not to panic (I know, easier said then done)
Prompt treatment is key to a successful recovery.
Your dog should be taken to the nearest veterinary surgery ( this may not be your own) Phone ahead so the surgery is aware of what has happened and can prepare for your visit. Try and carry your dog or at least reduce his/her movements to try and slow the spread of the venom around the dogs body. Bathe the wound in a cool saline solution to help reduce the swelling or apply a cold compress. Transport to the vets as soon as possible.
Treatment and recovery will depend on the individual. The vet may need to provide pain relief and possibly set up an intravenous drip to treat any shock. They may also administer antihistamines and anti snake venom.
TIPS TO HELP REDUCE THE CHANCE OF AN ADDER BITE
. Keep dogs on a shorter lead
. Keep to paths where possible to prevent disturbing snakes in the undergrowth
. If you encounter an adder while out on a walk, keep your distance (that includes your dog)
. Give the adder the chance to move away ( they rarely bite - only if they feel threatened or have been startled)
Most adders will mind their own business but only if you do too!