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Pet poisons & toxins part 1: Snake bites

I am sure many of you saw the sad reports in the news this week of the death of two dogs following Adder bites – which have occurred during the recent period of particularly warm weather.  Whilst pet deaths in the UK due to snake bites are relatively rare, dog walkers in particular have been asked to be on the guard.  So what should you be aware of?

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS)* have compiled a list of common poisons and Adder bites appear at number 10 in this list – following approx 1,242 enquiries to the Service to date by Vets.  The European Adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK.  Adder bites typically occur during the warmer Spring/Summer months.  This is because they are cold-blooded and move out into the open – including on to paths – to bask in the sun and warm up before returning to the undergrowth.

Adders typically like to live in areas of rough, open countryside and around the edges of woodland.  Male adders can grow up to 60cm long and females up to 75cm – although many are less than this.  They are not aggressive animals and are only likely to bite if they feel threatened or are trodden on.

To decrease the risk of your pet being bitten you should keep your dog in a lead in areas that Adders may favour – particularly when it is very warm.  To protect yourself you should wear boots or wellingtons rather than open-toed shoes or flip-flops.  However, it is worth mentioned that a human has not died from an Adder bite for over 20 years.

Adder bites are extremely dangerous to pets – particularly if they are bitten on the face.  If your pet is bitten the signs of this include swelling, bleeding and fever.  Your pet may go into shock.  Kidney and liver damage may occur in some cases.  Time is of the essence when treating Adder bites so your pet must be taken to a Vet as soon as possible.

* The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) is an internationally renowned poisons information service which provides the veterinary profession with 24 hour support and advice on the diagnosis and management of poisoned animals.  They advise on approximately 25,000 cases in total per year.  For more information about the VPIS please click here to visit the VPIS website.  If you suspect your pet may have been poisoned, come into contact with any kind of toxin or otherwise appears unwell please contact your Vet in the first instance.

COMING UP IN PART 2:  We take a look at Number 9 on the VPIS’s common poisons list – batteries!

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