Watch out, for there may be adders about

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Summer is in full flow and the weather hasn’t been too bad, however with the good weather come risks.

Within the past month or so we have seen a number of cases of adder bites.

The adder is Britain’s only native venomous snake and is common in the region. Its favoured habitats are heathland, sand dunes, the moors and woodland margins. It is easy to recognise given its striking black and brown zigzag markings.

As with most snakes, they only tend to attack if provoked, usually when a dog comes across them by accident or is sniffing around in a hole. Adders are a protected species and are a rare sight as they are very nervous and tend to disappear before we noisy humans appear.

Bites tend to be seen either around the lower limbs or on the face as these are the regions snakes will strike at when disturbed. You will often see puncture wounds and your pet will be very sore.

Adder venom acts directly on the heart and blood vessels and the effects can be devastating. The onset of clinical signs is usually very rapid. The affected area will swell dramatically, is very painful to the touch and can bleed dramatically. Other signs include lethargy and collapse, bruising, hypersalivation, panting and vomiting. In severe cases dogs can even go into a coma.

If you suspect that your dog has been bitten the most important thing is to act fast. Keep the dog as still and quiet as possible, and leave the bite site alone, don’t prod or poke the area. If possible, carry the dog to the car or vets if it is closer. If you see the snake and get a photo to confirm that it was an adder this can be very helpful.

Speed is essential in case of an adder bite because if left untreated they can prove fatal.

Once you get your pet to the vets it will usually be admitted for supportive treatment and intensive care. Anti­-inflammatories are usually used and if the practice has the antivenom to hand then this is helpful. If veterinary attention is received then generally the prognosis is pretty good. Luckily the two cases we had in recently were both brought promptly and have made a full and rapid recovery.

Areas in the region that adders are particularly fond of include Thrunton woods, the hills around Simonside and there is a large population around Kielder. If you are taking your dog for a walk around these areas, particularly if the weather is lovely and sunny, then do watch out for there may be adders about.

CHRIS GREEN, Director and Senior Vet