What is the adder?

The adder (Vipera berus berus) is the only venomous snake native to the UK, and is also found across northern Europe. It is a protected species in the UK. The adult snake is 50-60 cm long and varies in colour from pale grey to dark brown in the male, and from olive green/yellowish-brown to reddish-brown in the female. It has a black/brown zig-zag pattern on its back (which may only be seen in strong sun light) and a V-shaped marking on the head. The adder also has the vertical slit pupils rather than the round pupils of the other native, non-venomous snakes, the grass snake (Natrix natrix) and the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca).

When do adder bites occur?

Adders are most commonly, but not exclusively, found on dry, sandy heaths, sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorlands and woodland edges. Adders are not aggressive and generally only bite when provoked. They hibernate in the winter and as a result most bites occur in the summer. Pets are frequently bitten on the leg, head or neck.

What are the signs of an adder bite?

The venom of the adder is a complex mix of chemical compounds that cause a variety of effects on the body.
The clinical signs of an adder bite can include:
• Rapid, progressive, local swelling
around the bite site
• Pain
• Lethargy
• Collapse
• Vomiting
• Panting
• Lameness
• Bruising
• Bleeding

Call Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509000 even if your pet is showing no signs to find out whether a trip to the vet is required.
• Do not panic.
• Do not interfere with the bite.
• Do not apply a tourniquet.
• Do not attempt to touch or catch the snake.
• Do not kill the snake – it is a protected species.
• If practical, carry your dog to your car and go to your veterinary surgeon – do not delay seeking advice even if your pet is well.