Snake bites – learn how to act fast and effectively!
The European adder (Vipera berus) is the only venomous snake native to the UK. Adults are approximately 50-60cm long with a brown zigzag pattern along their back and a V or X shaped marking on the back of the head. Adders are most commonly found in the south and south west of England, western Wales and Scotland, where their chosen habitats include sand dunes, rocky mountains, moorland and the edges of woodland. Adders are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 so it is an offence to kill, harm, injure, sell or trade them.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced, UK registered vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
✓ Included free as part of many pet insurance policies
✓ Help, treatment and if you need it, a referral to your local vet
✓ Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
Symptoms of a snake bite
- Nervousness or yelping
- Two puncture wounds may be seen at the site along with pain, bleeding or bruising
- Swelling around the site occurs within 2 hours
- Breathing difficulties if the bite is on the face
Causes of snake bites
Adder bites are fairly rare. These snakes are most active during the afternoon between April and July. They usually bite in self defence and may be provoked by inquisitive puppies, young dogs or cats. Bites most often occur in the face or legs.
What you can do yourself
- Seek help at your nearest veterinary clinic immediately. Call them to let them know what has happened and your estimated time of arrival.
- Do not try to suck the bite site.
- Bathe the area in cold water to help control the swelling.
- Carry your pet, if possible, to minimise the spread of the venom around the body.
- Keep your pet quiet and still on the way to the clinic.
Treatment of a snake bite
More than 95% of pets that are bitten by an adder will survive with prompt treatment. The average recovery time ranges from 24 hours to four weeks. Pain relief will be given as the bite is usually painful. Intravenous fluids may be needed to maintain blood pressure, treat signs of shock and reduce the risk of organ failure. Antihistamines may be used to help to reduce the effects of the venom. In severe cases anti-venom will be used. Anti-venom binds to and inactivates the venom to stop it causing further harm. It can be difficult to obtain and there is currently no licensed preparation in the UK, so it has to be imported.
When to see your physical veterinarian
- Seek help at your nearest veterinary clinic immediately.
Book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our vets.