Adder Bites in Dogs

Adder Bites in Dogs

5 Most Common Orthopaedic Issues in Dogs Reading Adder Bites in Dogs 4 minutes

Written & Verified by Alison Lambert MA VetMB MRCVS

How Common are Adder Bites in Dogs?

The European Adder is the UK's only native venomous snake. Adults are up to 60cm long and have a black or brown zigzag pattern along their back with a V-shaped marking on the back of their head.

Most adder bites in the UK occur between April and July. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) reports adder bites from throughout the mainland, but most commonly from the south of England.

Adders are most commonly found on dry sandy heaths or dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland, and woodland edges.

Signs & Symptoms of Adder Bites in Dogs

Dogs are inquisitive by nature and may well come into contact with an adder on a walk. The severity and type of symptoms shown will vary in each situation, but often pain and swelling are initially noted. 

If you suspect an adder has bitten your dog, immediately check for:

  • Two small puncture wounds
  • Swelling
  • Redness in the area
  • Bites are often to the face or a limb

About two-thirds of dogs progress to show more widespread symptoms within a couple of hours, such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Drooling or vomiting
  • Increased temperature
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased heart rate

What to Do if an Adder Bites Your Dog?

If you think your dog has suffered an adder bite, take them to a vet as quickly as possible.

What you need to do:

  • Avoid attempting any first aid (The sooner your dog sees a vet, the better their chances of making a full recovery)
  • Help your dog maintain a comfortable temperature and keep them calm en route to the vet.
  • Transport your dog with the affected area elevated above the heart to reduce the systemic spread of adder venom.
  • Clean the wound with cold water to reduce swelling, but do not squeeze it.

How can I prevent my dog from getting bitten?

To reduce the risk of your dog getting bitten, it's essential to be aware of the types of snakes in your area and their habitats. In the UK, there are non-venomous snakes, including the grass snake and smooth snake.

These snakes can reach up to 150cm in length and are good swimmers. They are often found in wetlands but can also be seen in gardens, especially if you have a pond. To prevent encounters, keep your dog away from water bodies and wetlands where grass snakes are commonly found.

These slender snakes grow to approximately 70cm in length and are brown or grey with dark spots along their back. They are usually found in gardens and woodland edges. To reduce the risk of bites, supervise your dog in these areas and discourage them from exploring dense undergrowth where snakes might hide.

Both grass snakes and smooth snakes are non-venomous and present no risk to humans or dogs. However, staying vigilant and keeping your dog on a leash in areas where snakes are common can help prevent any unwanted encounters.

Adder Bite Treatments for Dogs

Fortunately, the reported mortality rate is low at 4.6% (VPIS) and most dogs go on to make a full recovery with supportive care of pain relief, anti-inflammatories, possibly intravenous fluids, and care of the damaged skin. 

In severe cases, if anti-venom is available, it may be considered but is not routinely used as it can sometimes cause allergic reactions. 

To support your dog's recovery after being bitten, consider using YuMOVE Joint Care Supplements which are good for reducing inflammation, promoting joint health, and improving mobility.