Adders – what is the risk to my pet?
Identification: Most adders are distinctively marked with a dark zigzag running down the length of the spine and an inverted ‘V’ shape on the neck. Males are generally white or pale grey with a black zigzag. Females are pale brown with a darker brown zigzag. Adders are viviparous – they give birth to live young.
The Adder (Vipera berus) is the only venomous snake native to Britain. Adders will only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or stepped on. No one has died from an adder bite in Britain for over 35 years. With proper treatment, the worst effects in humans are nausea and drowsiness, followed by swelling and bruising in the area of the bite.
What is the risk to my pet?
The adder is a timid and non-aggressive snake, and will only bite when provoked. They hibernate over the winter and emerge in early spring as the temperature increases.
Unfortunately dogs are the animals most likely to be bitten due to their natural curiosity. But adder bites are rarely fatal in pets.
The severity of the clinical signs varies and depends upon the location of the bite (facial bites are more serious), the size of the patient (small pets are more likely to be seriously affected), the amount the pet moves after the bite (movement increases venom uptake).
The most common signs are significant swelling at the site of the bite, with systemic signs of depression and lethargy.
- Less than 5% of patients display more severe signs
- 96-97% make a full recovery, usually within five days
If your pet is bitten by an adder you should seek prompt veterinary attention. Do not attempt first aid measures such as applying a tourniquet- This is ineffective and can cause further harm to your pet. Carry your pet (rather than allow them to walk) to try and reduce the spread of venom around his body.Prevention
- Keep to the paths – snakes tend to live in the undergrowth
- Use a short lead if walking in an area where adders might be present – this will also protect the young of ground-nesting birds
- If you encounter an adder – leave it alone and give it the opportunity to escape to safety
Adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to kill, harm or injure them, and to sell or trade them in any way.