Sussex dog walkers warned over potentially lethal adder bites

Vets are warning dog walkers to be on the look out for adders when walking their pets.

Tuesday, 4th June 2019, 8:00 am
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The news comes after a woman narrowly avoided stepping on an adder at a country park in Hastings last week.

She said: “It was on a footpath and I only spotted it at the last second when it moved.”

Most adders have a distinct dark zigzag that runs down the length of their bodies, as well as an inverted “V” shape on their neck.

Male adders are usually white or pale grey with a black zigzag, while the females are a pale brown colour, with a darker brown zigzag.

They are commonly found in areas of rough, open countryside near woodland and can often be found on open walking paths, where they go to soak up the sun.

Pet emergency experts Vets Now have reported seeing a 208% year-on-year increase in the number of people seeking advice about adder bites.

In the last week of April alone their vets gave at least six dogs anti-venom after being attacked by Britain’s only native poisonous snake.

Vets say the snakes are more agitated than usual at this time of year because they have not long come out of hibernation.

Dave Leicester, head of clinical intelligence at Vets Now, said: “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.”

Fourteen people in the UK have been recorded as dying from adder bites, with the last recorded death in 1975.

Adders eat small rodents, spiders worms and frogs. It is illegal to kill or harm adders.

While painful, most people, if bitten, do not suffer serious consequences. If properly treated, the worst effects of the snake’s bite are nausea and drowsiness, followed by severe swelling and bruising around the bite. In a small number of people, a snake bite can trigger a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.

Last month a woman was hospitalised following a severe reaction to an adder bite on her toe, in the Gower Peninsular in Wales.

If you do get bitten by a snake, the NHS recommends you remain calm and don’t panic, seek immediate medical attention.