We've seen two nasty snake bites in the last two weeks so please be aware that Adders are around at the moment. Thankfully both dogs have made a full recovery.
We are very lucky to live in the beautiful Surrey Hills but we do have to share our countryside with its other inhabitants. The European adder, Vipera berus berus, is the only venomous snake native to the UK.
Easy to identify with its black/brown zig-zag pattern along its back they are found living in dry sandy regions. As an endangered species they are protected by law and are generally very shy creatures. Adders only bite if provoked and would much rather escape off to the bushes than be involved in a confrontation.
Like all snakes they are cold blooded so need the warmth of the sun to heat up and then become active. Spring and early summer are the commonest times for pets to be bitten as the snakes are generally too slow to get away.
The photos show the hind leg of poor Gunny a very friendly Golden Retreiver who we think accidently trod on an adder in the woods. Thankfully his owners rushed him straight to the practice and within half an hour of the bite he was receiving treatment. We are lucky enough at Oak Barn Vets to have antivenom in stock should we need to use it. Thankfully with prompt treatment patients normally make a quick recovery.
You can see with the photographs how quickly the leg swells and becomes very bruised as the toxin starts to kill the surrounding tissues. If not treated quickly this tissue will die and slough leaving nasty wounds that can take some time to heal. More serious are bites to the face and neck region as the considerable swelling that comes with a bite can cause difficulties with breathing.
If your pet is unfortunate to get bitten this is an EMERGENCY and you should seek veterinary help immediately. Antihistamines given straight away will help but bitten animals may require an antivenom and supportive therapy as the bite toxins can lead to severe kidney, tissue damage and even death. If you would like to have a supply of antihistamines at home for initial emergency treatment (handy if kept in the glove box of the car) then please contact the surgery - however antihistamines alone are not enough to cure a bite and emergency veterinary treatment is still required.