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Watch out, adders about....

Date: 25 August 2015  |  Author: Holly Sadler

Tags: accident & emergencyhealth

The adder is Britain's only venomous snake, and is widespread in the New Forest, found mostly in heath-land and rough grassland. It is clearly identified by the distinctive dark zigzag pattern running along it's back.

Photo courtesy of

Adder bites most often happen on a warm sunny day when the snake has been rudely surprised whilst sunbathing. Bites to dogs mostly commonly occur on the limbs or face, and the area becomes quickly swollen and painful. You can sometimes see two little puncture marks in the centre of the swelling. Occasionally the result can be more severe and the dog can go into anaphylactic shock. Signs of this include salivation, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness and lethargy, pale gums and weak pulses.

If your dog is unlucky enough to get bitten by an adder, seek immediate veterinary attention. If the bite is on the limbs it would be better to carry the dog to the car to reduce the  risk of the venom spreading. Try to cool the area down. Your vet may advise an antihistamine so it is worth keeping something such as Piriton in the car so you can get this on board immediately. Your vet may also administer a steroid injection, and may start the dog on a course of painkillers and antibiotics. If the dog develops a more severe reaction, or if the swelling is on the head or in danger of obstructing the airways, anti-venom may be administered.

To avoid either yourself or your dog getting bitten by an adder during the summer months, try and stick to main paths and discourage dogs from frolicking in heath-land during times you think adders may be enjoying the sun. We are lucky enough to share the Forest with this beautiful creature, we just need to give it a bit of space!

About Dr Holly Sadler