Snakes on the South Downs

Adder Snake – Common this time of year on the South Downs

I saw my first snake in ever the UK after 14 years last week. It was exciting and quite daunting at the same time. This was at Devils Dyke last week on a track from the Summer Downs Car Park towards the Devils Dyke Inn.

Wow – it was so much larger than I had anticipated –  over 2 feet long. I was comforted slightly that the head was very small but don’t let that fool you they are still venomous. The adders are common for this time of year as they are coming out of hibernation and like to bask in the sun on especially warm days approaching 20 degrees plus.

Official Information from Forestry Commission:

The adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain. Adders have the most highly developed venom-injecting mechanism of all snakes, but they are not aggressive animals. Adders will only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or trodden on. No one has died from adder bite in Britain for over 20 years. With proper treatment, the worst effects are nausea and drowsiness, followed by severe swelling and bruising in the area of the bite. Most people who are bitten were handling the snake. Treat adders with respect and leave them alone.

Some additional information for

Is my dog likely to get bitten?
Adder bites are fairly rare. Snakes generally only bite in self-defence, so normally bites occur when a snake is stepped on or disturbed by your dog. Puppies and young dogs can be especially curious and can unintentionally provoke an adder into biting. The majority of bites in dogs seem to occur between April and July, most commonly in the afternoon when the adders are most active.

Important points:
Most adder bites occur between April and July
Common adder habitats are sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and also woodland edges
If your dog is bitten, don’t panic, try to keep them still and seek veterinary attention straight away
The most common signs are significant pain and swelling where the bite occurred as well as depression and lethargy
Less than 5% of patients display more severe signs and complications
96-97% of bitten dogs make a full recovery, usually within 5 days, with appropriate treatment

What will you see:
Adder bites can result in swelling around the wound, usually within 2 hours, and this can be severe. You might be able to see the 2 puncture wounds in the centre of the swelling.
Other than swelling your dog may show signs of pain, bleeding, bruising, lameness and may appear nervous.
If the adder venom is absorbed into the rest of the body it can cause a widespread inflammatory reaction leading to symptoms such as lethargy, fever, increased heart and respiratory rates, drooling, vomiting and a wobbly gait.
In severe cases, animals may collapse, have blood clotting problems, organ failure, tremors or convulsions.
Bites most commonly occur on a dog’s legs or face. If your dog is bitten on the face, it could lead to swelling of the face and muzzle and may result in breathing difficulties.

The severity of the clinical signs and the speed of recovery can vary and depends on:
the speed of veterinary treatment
the location of the bite
the size of the patient (small dogs can be more severely affected)
the amount and potency of the venom
the amount the patient moves after it’s been bitten
any pre-existing disease within the patient (this may make them more likely to develop severe clinical signs)

Brighton Dog Adventures always takes the utmost care during this time but sometimes natural events just happen. If a dog is bitten we’ll be taking immediate action and take the dog to the vet without delay. Likewise, sometimes a bite is not always seen or registered. If your dog returns home from their adventure with us and you notice any of the signs above, see your vet without delay, even if that means an emergency out of hours appointment. BDA Clients, please do let me know if you have any further concerns.

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