What to do if your dog is bitten by a snake

Snakes, like the adder, will usually bite dogs only if they are disturbed or threatened. Photo: PA Wire

The dog warden in the Tendring area of Essex has warned dog owners to be on their guard after a greyhound was bitten by a snake and needed treatment from a vet.

The incident, thought to have involved Britain's only venonous snake, the adder, happened at Brook Country Park on the outskirts of Clacton.

The dog had ventured into long grass was bitten and had to be treated by a vet.

The RSPCA says adder bites can be dangerous to pets, particularly if the animal is bitten on the face. The bite causes swelling, bleeding and fever.

Most dogs recover from snake bites if treated.

The Vets Now website says snakes generally only bite in self-defence when threatened and normally bites happen when a dog steps on or disturbs a snake.

The advice given if your dog is bitten is:

  • Quickly seek the attention of a vet
  • Carry your dog rather than let it walk to try to reduce the spread of the venom
  • Bathe the wound in cold water to control the swelling
  • Keep your dog quiet and warm as your transport it to the vet

The Vets Now website says in most cases dogs recover with appropriate treatment. They can be given pain relief and treated for swelling and shock.

In some cases an anti-venom is given if this is available.

The advice is to seek the attention of a vet if your dog is bitten by a snake. Credit: Lindsay Magers-Warren

Tendring District Council Dog Warden Allen East said the latest snake bite was the second report of its kind and added the warmer weather was making snakes more active.

Mr East said that other report came from the Martello Bay area of Clacton, again where a dog went into a longer grassed area.

“In this case the owner said his dog was in a great deal of pain and his leg was badly swollen. He would not like to see any other dog suffer in the same way. The real concern is during this current spell of hot weather which brings the snakes out."

– Allen East, Tendring District Council Dog Warden
The adder or viper is Britain's only venomous snake. Credit: Andrew Lee

Pet Doctors, which has veterinary clinics in Cambridgeshire, says on its website that vets are seeing an increasingly number of dogs with snakebites.

It says: "When an adder bites it typically injects around 1ml of venom. There are usually one or two small puncture wounds that may or may not bleed. Up to 20 minutes later the bitten area may become hot and red, with swelling and throbbing. Sometimes these are the only signs. The peak effects are usually seen around six hours after the bite."

They advise seeking the attention of a vet if you suspect your dog has been bitten by a snake.

The RSPCA says people shouldn't be alarmed by snakes as they are shy animals and move off quickly if approached. The charity says death from adder bites in human is rare as the venom is not very potent but bites are painful and can become more serious if left untreated.

Snakes are protected by law in the UK and it is an offence to intentionally injure or kill a wild snake.