Snakebites – The Common Adder, or Viper, is the only venomous snake in the British Isles. Most Adder encounters happen during their active season which is between March and October. They have a dark “zig-zag” stripe along the back and their background colour varies from grey or white in the male, right through to shades of brown or copper in the female. They can grow up to around 60 cm long.
Generally speaking, dogs usually get bitten on the head or neck, and less often on the limbs, because they tend to stick their head’s in to have a good investigate!
1) The injected venom causes a severe swelling
2) In the centre are two small fang puncture wounds
3) Venom produces excitement/trembling/staggering/shock
4) Later there may be depression, collapse and even death is possible.
Treatment: Time is of the essence
1) Phone ahead & get to your vet ASAP for treatment
(dog should be kept quiet and exercise reduced to a minimum – carried if possible)
2) Your vet will administer treatment with anti-venom or other and usually an
antihistamine. If you carry this yourself and it has been PRESCRIBED BY YOUR
VET for this particular dog, giving an antihistamine such as Piriton ASAP will help.
3) Clean with soap & water (ONLY if this does not delay getting to the vet)
4) Applying an ice pack should ONLY be attempted when excessive delay in getting to a vet is unavoidable. Application of a tourniquet, is no longer practiced by most professionals.
5) Again, if time is not wasted in doing so, applying a thick paste of activated charcoal (AC) to the
affected area has been shown to be incredibly effective. If you walk regularly in an area
known to have Adders, then carrying AC with you for just such eventualities is a good idea.
6) Monitor for signs of shock and be ready to administer CPR if required
DO NOT incise the bite or attempt to suck out the venom!
Grass Snakes are non-venomous, but they still bite if they feel threatened.
There will be little swelling from the bite and the clinical signs above caused by the Adder venom do not occur. There will be not be the visible double fang marks as in an Adder bite, but instead you will see a U-shaped set of teeth imprints.
Although, as I’ve already said, there is no poisonous venom with a Grass Snake, their bite can still cause infection, so the wound should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water to prevent bacteria penetrating the tissues.
Monitor the wound for any signs of infection or any change in your dog’s behaviour.