What is an adder?
An adder is the only poisonous snake remaining in the UK today. It has a dark zigzag pattern on its back and bears live young. They are more likely to be found in the south of England than in the north but are still fairly common in west Wales and southwest England. Their breeding season is between April and May but they are usually more active above ground between April and October.
Can I or my dog die from an adder bite?
Dogs are more prone to being bitten by them because they will try to play with them or are just so inquisitive that they shove their noses right up to the adders to see what it is. For this reason most dogs are bitten around their heads and neck areas or legs if they accidentally tread on one.The majority of adder bites in dogs seem to occur in the afternoons when adders are more active.
Apparently no one has died from an adder bite in Britain for over 20 years but a friend of mine was bitten by an adder whilst out walking her dogs and reported it was a very painful experience and caused inflammation around the bite wound. A bite can cause nausea and drowsiness and medical treatment should be sought immdedaitely.
What can I do to avoid them and protect us?
There are several precautions you can take to avoid encounters with these creatures.
1. The Nation Trust put up signs in their car parks if there is a danger of adders where you are about to take your walk. If there is a danger it is best to keep your dog on a lead to protect him/her as well as yourself.
2. Alternatively avoid any areas which you know or are reported to be particularly prone to
adders between April and October.
3. Although poisonous, Adders are not aggressive and will try to get away rather than attack.
They will however, attempt to defend themselves if you try to pick them up, so don’t!
4. Keep out of long grass and to wide footpaths, that way if you see an adder you can give it a
wide berth. Never try to shoo it out of the way or pick it up to move it.
5. Wear long trousers and closed footwear to give yourself some protection should you
accidentally tread on an adder.
What do I do if I or my dog is bitten by an Adder?
In the highly unlikely event that you or your dog is bitten by an adder you are advised to do as follows:
1. Never try to catch the snake to take to the hospital or vets; you are more likely to be bitten
again by doing this but if you can take a photograph at a safe distance to show to your
doctor or vet then do so providing it does not delay urgent medical attention.
2. If you are bitten by an Adder seek medical help immediately. It will be a painful experience
so don't delay. Do not try to suck the poison out or apply a taunique.
If your dog is bitten by an Adder, telephone your vet to let them know you
are bringing your dog to them and why; they can then prepare for your arrival or if they
have multiple surgeries will be able to direct you to the one that will be able to assist you
Remember that Adders are protected so killing or attempting to catch one is illegal. They are not aggressive creatures and are happy to share their environment with you if you leave them alone. I have to say in all the years I have owned dogs neither myself nor my dogs have been bitten by an Adder and we walk in a lot of areas where they are common, so an Adder attack is rare and shouldn't discourage you from walking your dog.
For futher details I have attached two useful leaflets below for you to print or download for your dog file or to share with your dog club, or click on the adder image below to take you to the adder website.
Safe walking everyone