Adder bites - what to do!

Be Adder aware- how to keep your pet safe and prevent adder bites.

                     GRASS SNAKE                                                      ADDER 

Sunny days have started to make an appearance in Pembrokeshire. Whilst this is great news for dog walkers, it is also good news for Adders, the only species of venomous snake in the UK. They will be starting to wake up from winter hibernation as the days become warmer, in much the same way as a teenager does.

Adders are elusive creatures that prefer to hide from humans and dogs. They are found in a variety of habitats including sand dunes, rocky hillsides and woodlands. If you walk along the coastal path it is quite likely that you will have walked past lots of adders without even realising. Adders are not aggressive unless they feel threatened. They will only bite as a last resort, either when stepped on or caught. During the spring and summer months we will see several cases of dogs that have been bitten. Cats are less likely to suffer a snake bite, but it is still possible.
Grass snakes also start to come out of hibernation when the days become warmer. It is quite easy to tell the two species apart.

Photo from www.bnhs.co.uk

I didn’t see it happen, what signs suggest that my pet might have been bitten?:
Puncture marks: Two obvious puncture marks may be visible, although they may be hard to spot in long haired dogs.
Swelling:  Sudden onset swelling , which you can’t explain, is a tell tale sign your pet may have been bitten. Swelling varies depending on where you pet has been bitten. Most often it occurs around the legs or face.
Altered breathing:  This usually happens if they swelling is around the face or throat, especially if the swelling presses on the airway.
Other symptoms may include pain, lameness, pale gums, bruising, drooling, vomiting, lethargy and collapse.


What to do if you think your pet has been bitten:
If you think or know that your cat or dog has been bitten, contact us immediately. Treat it as an emergency. Call 01437 760 111, if it happens out of normal working hours you will be directed to the on call vet.
Do not attempt to suck out the venom or apply anything around the bite (including tourniquets). Well-intentioned first aid attempts can make matters worse.
Keep your pet as calm and still as possible. If you are out on a walk, carry your dog back to the car to help slow the spread of venom.
What is the treatment for adder bites?
Once at the surgery, your pet will be thoroughly examined by a vet, allowing us to determine the best treatment for them. This may involve pain relief, antihistamines, antibiotics and steroids. Depending on the severity of the case we may have to hospitalise your pet to put them on a drip and administer anti venom .
Will there be any problems in the long term?
Snake bites can lead to the skin around a puncture becoming necrotic (i.e dying off) and sloughing (i.e falling off). This can result in large open wounds that are at risk of becoming infected. These wounds may also need surgery to correct them.
How to avoid getting bitten
There isn’t a great deal you can do to prevent an adder bite, apart from taking sensible precautions during high risk periods. Keeping your dog on the lead when walking in adder ‘hotspots’ will help.

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