There have been several reports of sightings of Adders recently so we thought some advice on how to live with our rare friends might be in order!
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. At this time of year most Adders are warm and quick so it is rare to spot them. If you do see a snake, give it space to escape and keep your dog temporarily on a lead until you are sure all is safe. Remember not all dogs have a natural fear of snakes and may well want to investigate further!
If your pet is unfortunate enough to get bitten this is an EMERGENCY and you should seek veterinary help immediately. Antihistamines given straight away will help but bitten animals require an antivenom and supportive therapy otherwise the bites are often fatal. Not only are the bites painful but they often cause large areas of skin to become necrotic and slough away. Bites to the face are especially dangerous as they have a habit of swelling considerably.
We are lucky enough at Oak Barn Vets to have immediate access to antivenom should we need to use it. Thankfully with prompt treatment patients normally make a quick recovery. If you would like to have an emergency supply of anti-histamines in case the worse happens please contact the surgery on 01483 455355 or email at