Watch Out Adders About Beware of the UK's only venomous snake

Watch Out Adders About

8th June 2020 by

I find myself whilst out walking the dogs looking at the ground thinking: stick, stick, shoelace, stick… snake! Tell me I am not alone?

European Adders (Vipera berus) are the UK’s only venomous snake. The shy adder can be spotted during Spring as they are just out of hibernation. You’ll find them basking in the sunshine in woodland glades, sand dunes, rocky hillsides and on heath lands. An adder bite is a very rare occurrence, and can be painful, but is almost never fatal but dog owners should be aware that adder bites can have a more serious effect on dogs.

How to identify

The adder is a greyish snake, with a dark and very distinct zig-zag pattern down its back, and a red eye. Males tend to be more silvery-grey in colour, while females are more light or reddish-brown. Black (melanistic) forms are sometimes spotted.

If your dog is bitten by an adder

An adder will usually bite a dog if the snake is stepped on or disturbed and most bites occur on a dog’s legs or face 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 may become severe and if the dog develops an allergic reaction to the toxin may lead to breathing difficulties, particularly if the dog has been bitten around the head and neck. If your dog is bitten or you notice some symptoms take them to a vet as soon as possible. If left untreated, dogs may collapse, have blood clotting problems, tremors or convulsions.

You can find more information for the treatment of other animals bitten by adders here.

Did you know?

Adders are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; this means that it is an offence to kill, harm, injure, sell or trade them. There are no adders in  Isles of Scilly, the Channel Islands, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.