Emergency vets report big increase in people seeking advice

Vets are warning pet owners to be on high alert after a spate of adder bites left dogs urgently needing anti-venom.

Our nationwide network of pet emergency clinics have reported seeing an 86% year-on-year increase in the number of people seeking advice about adder bites.

Since March, we have treated at least 39 dogs for suspected bites from Britain’s only native venomous snake.

The dogs were being walked in areas including Bournemouth, Tunbridge Wells, Ipswich, Colchester, Swansea and Farnham.

Vets say the snakes are more agitated than usual at this time of year because they have just come out of hibernation.

Dave Leicester, head of clinical intelligence at Vets Now, has drawn up an advice guide on what to do if a dog is bitten by an adder.

Image of adder for Vets Now article on snake bites on dogs
The European adder is the UK's only venomous snake

He said: “Adder bites are more frequent in the spring when the snakes are just out of hibernation.

“Adders will only bite a dog in self-defence. Generally, bites occur when a snake is stepped on or disturbed.

“Most adder bites occur on a dog’s legs or face and typically result in a dark, painful swelling. Owners may also be able to see two small puncture wounds in the centre of the swelling.

“The swelling can become severe and may result in breathing difficulties, as a consequence of an allergic reaction to the toxin, particularly if the dog has been bitten around the head and neck.

“Eventually, if left untreated, dogs may collapse, have blood clotting problems, tremors or convulsions. That’s why it’s vitally important owners rush them to a vet as early as possible.”

Brave Raven (pictured) was bitten by an adder during a heathland walk and took nearly a week to recover after the snake’s venom caused her face to swell up enormously.

Owner Caz Terrell was out with the Weimaraner near their home in Woodbridge, Suffolk, when she encountered the snake, although it wasn’t until hours later when Raven’s face ballooned that she realised they needed a vet.

She rushed Raven to Vets Now in Ipswich where she was treated overnight.

Caz said: “It was very worrying. I have come across most things in my time breeding these dogs, but I’ve never had to deal with a snake bite.”

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image of Raven the Weimaraner with injury caused by an adder bite for Vets Now article on adder bites in dogs
Raven's injury shows what can happen when a dog comes face to face with an adder

Although adder numbers are said to be in decline, there is an estimated 100,000 across Europe.

Studies have found that most adder bites occur between April and July with nine in 10 dogs developing signs within 12 hours. These typically include swelling, lethargy, high temperature and heart problems.

Survival rates are high, however, with fewer than one in 20 adder bite victims dying. While adders can be found throughout Britain, they are most prevalent in the south of England.

Since March, more than 5000 dog owners have sought advice about adder bites from Vets Now, which is a 21% on the same period last year.

The Vets Now clinic in Ipswich – where Raven received treatment – is one of 61 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.