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St Anne's Veterinary Group Blog

» Escape to the Country - Part One

Lots of people are holidaying in this country and many to coastal towns like ours. Dog owners are spoilt with the coastline and South Downs here, but there are things to think about in rural areas whether you are a resident or a tourist. Here in part one we talk about the danger of Adders.

We get Adder bites every year and surprisingly not all are on The Downs or fields, we’ve seen a suspected case in a residential area too. We are thankfully one of the only vets that stock anti-venom as it’s important that treatment is given quickly. In 2016 the VPIS consulted on 101 cases, the Adder is a non aggressive animal that will only bite when threatened. Not all bites actually result in venom being released but you may still see puncture wounds but no other clinical signs. Common symptoms include hyperthermia, profuse salivating, lethargy and swelling in the bite location. 

Swelling to the face is the most serious as this can affect the airways. If possible you should try and carry your pet to the car to get to the vets to keep the heart rate down and minimise the spread of the toxins. I have read countless times on social media, people saying that it’s ok if their pet gets bitten because they carry antihistamine with them, this will not save your pet! Antihistamines are used when a natural histamine reaction occurs like with an anaphylactic case. Venom is a toxin (poison) which needs symptomatic treatment and sometimes anti-venom. There have been no studies to prove the use of histamines with adder bites. There can be a slight histamine release along with other hormones as a reaction to the bite so it has been used in many cases but getting the correct dose is paramount.  You can actually overdose on antihistamine so seeking veterinary advice is very important. NEVER apply a tourniquet; it might be something you see in the movies when the person removes his belt to control the bleeding. This can actually lead to infection and restrict circulation (which I know is the point but tourniquets in this instance are a bad idea).


Symptoms like the swelling can be seen in minutes or up to 2 hours later, in very rare cases it’s been delayed by 6 hours.  Adder bites if left untreated can be fatal in some cases. Bad cases can end up with renal problems, collapse and respiratory distress.  If your pet does get bitten by a snake please try and capture a photo that could be used in identifying whether it was an adder or not. Anti-venom if needed should be administered as soon as possible but can still be beneficial later on.                                                         

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