Adder bites: What to do if your dog has been bitten

Depending on where you’re walking your dog, your pet could potentially disturb an adder. Most dogs are keen to nose around in undergrowth on walks, which can bring them into contact with adders and this can sometimes result in adder bites.

As the only venomous snakes in the UK, adders can be dangerous, but in the vast majority of cases their bites are not fatal if they are treated fairly promptly. Here’s what you need to know in case your dog is bitten by an adder.

What does an adder look like?

Adders have a distinct pattern that makes them easily identifiable. You’ll see a black zig-zag on their back, regardless of the main colour of their skin.

Adder bites - an infographic on what to do if your dog is bitten by an adder

What to do if your dog is bitten by an adder

Your dog may have sudden pain or swelling, typically on the limbs or face.

It is rare that your dog will die after being bitten by an adder, but you will need to contact your vet as soon as possible.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help your dog before they get to the vet. This includes:

  • Not trying to suck out the venom or use any kind of tourniquet as this is more likely to make the situation worse
  • Keeping your pet as calm as possible
  • Carrying them so that venom has less chance to spread quickly around their body
  • If possible, you can try to bathe the wound in cold water to reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Treatment will involve pain relief, reducing the swelling and sometimes will extend to anti venom medication if this is needed. The prognosis is very good and most dogs will make a full recovery quite quickly after receiving treatment

Adder bits - dog insurance - a dog playing outdoors

What to do if you’re bitten by an adder

If you’re bitten by an adder, please seek medical advice. It’s recommended that you go straight to the nearest A&E department or call for an ambulance, depending on where you are on your walk. You can find more information about snake bites on the NHS website.

How to avoid adders

Adders are mostly found lurking in the undergrowth and dogs can be bitten if they root around in these areas during walks. It’s best if you can stick to paths and keep your dog on their lead so that they have less chance to dive into undergrowth.

If you encounter an adder that has ventured out into the open, it’s important to keep your distance and not let your dog get too close either. Adders rarely bite unless they feel threatened but they are more likely to get nasty if you are moving so stay as still as possible and give them the opportunity to move away.

It’s always worthwhile having a pet insurance policy in place to help with unexpected veterinary costs, such as an emergency trip to the vet if an adder bites your dog.

Why not read our post on Pet First Aid so you can help your pet should something happen?

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