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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Adding up

Dear Dogs Today,

I am seeking information about adders as I understand a bite from an adder could potentially kill a dog.

Please advise how I can avoid adders when walking my collie and what I must do in case of an adder bite. A friend mentioned I could carry Piriton on dog walks just in case. Is this a good idea?

Kind regards,

Mr M. Thompson, Surrey


  1. Adder bites aren't very common, as the adder is in decline across the UK and will only bite in self-defense. You can see if adders have been reported in the areas you are walking by checking on Adder Watch at

    If a dog did get bitten, the most important thing would be to seek veterinary attention straight away and start treatment as soon as possible. It's advised if you suspect your dog was bitten that you carry him back rather than letting him walk, to limit circulation of the venom. At the vets he would need antibiotics, as one of the big problems following adder bites is that the skin and tissue surrounding the bite will die and slough off, risking infection. He might also need to stay in on a drip and be monitored to make sure all his organs are coping with the venom.

  2. You are correct; an adder bite can sometimes be fatal, luckily this is rare, and with a few small steps this can be avoided. Adders are very shy animals and given the chance, like other wild animals, they will opt for flight, rather than fight. A bite is a last resort when threatened; a dog is not viewed by a snake as prey, so they only bite for protection.
    The most common time of the year for adder interaction is March to October, when the snakes are not hibernating. Adders will nearly always reside and bask in areas of undergrowth where they can get some sun and quickly hide when needed; dogs will only be bitten if allowed to sniff around in these wild areas. Always try to keep dogs on paths where snakes are known to reside, this will also help other species of wildlife (e.g. ground nesting birds).

    If a dog is bitten by a snake, report to a vet practice immediately, keep your dog calm, and carry back to car if possible, both of these will help slow the spread of venom around the body, giving you some valuable time.

    Finally, if possible remember what the snake looked like to tell the vet. Adders are the only native venomous species in the UK and are identified by a zig-zag pattern along their body. Grass snakes, which are harmless, are identified by a yellow collar around their heads and a plain green/brown body. Most vets in areas where snakes are present are experienced in snake bites, if you are unsure what species has bitten a dog always best to be safe than sorry and get checked out.