Dog First Aid – Adder Bites

POSTED ON: Tuesday 17th April 2018
AUTHOR: Caroline Clark

Now that it’s spring and the weather is warming up, most of us will be planning some lovely long walks with the dog. Whilst out and about, it’s possible to come across an Adder basking in the sunshine as they emerge from their hibernation dens. But would you know what to do if your dog was bitten by one?

The European Adder is the only venomous snake found in Britain. They live in moorland and are fairly common in areas of rough, open countryside and on the edge of woodland habitats. Adders have a venomous bite although they are not generally aggressive and only usually attack in self-defence. This tends to be if they are trodden on or if your dog appears to be threatening them.

Adders are identified through a dark zigzag running down the length of the body and an inverted ‘V’ shape on the neck although some are completely black so may be mistaken for some another species.

How do I know that my Dog has been bitten?

  1. Swelling at the site of the bite – sometimes two small puncture wounds are evident in the middle of the swollen area
  2. Bites are most common around the face and throat which may cause breathing difficulties. Limbs are also targets so limping and swelling are other signs
  3. Pain around the site of the bite – e.g. pawing the face , shaking the head etc.
  4. Other signs include: drooling, vomiting, restlessness and drowsiness
  5. If left untreated, the dog’s condition may progressively worsen. This includes: collapse, tremors or convulsions
  6. In some rare cases a dog may suffer anaphylactic shock after being bitten. The signs are quite dramatic and usually appear quickly after the injury. Signs include breathing difficulties, collapse and a rapid but weak pulse

What to do if your dog is bitten by an Adder?

  • Seek veterinary attention and administer canine first aid:
  • If possible carry your dog to prevent the spread of venom rapidly going through the circulation
  • Bathe the wound in cold water or use an ice pack on the swollen area to reduce the pain and swelling
  • Keep your dog warm to combat and treat shock
  • There is an anti-venom treatment available and your vet may use this as part of the treatment
  • Fortunately, most dogs survive provided they receive the correct treatment and prompt veterinary attention

So if you are walking in an area where Adders inhabit, make sure your dog is under control. Knowing the signs of injury is important as well as having some idea of how to administer canine first aid.

Do you want to learn more about canine first aid? My accredited course is now on line or you can contact me to find out where my next hosted event is scheduled to take place. Why not host an event yourself? I offer a generous commission for charities and businesses.

Download my free Canine First Aid  book

This article was compiled using information from the Forestry Commission www.forestry.gov/forestry and www.vetsnow.com