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31 October 2013, 08:53
More than twice the usual number of pets have been bitten by poisonous adders in Bournemouth this year.
A vets group says eight pets were treated for adder bites at Vets Now, Castle Lane West, Moordown, Bournemouth with another five telephone enquiries about suspected adder poisoning received during the summer – more than double the amount of adder bite cases dealt with by the practice in 2012.
Pets needing emergency treatment after being bitten by adders were mostly dogs and included a Doberman, Golden Retriever, Black Labrador and even a cat – an unusual occurrence due to a cat’s quick reactions.
All bitten animals were successfully treated with antivenom and antihistamines and made complete recoveries.
Juri Komisarovas, Principal Vet for Vets Now in Bournemouth, believes this year’s hot weather contributed to the rise in adder bites.
“This summer was particularly bad for snake bites – unsurprising as it was hot and dry and exactly the conditions coldblooded snakes prefer and when they are more active.
“Also a big contribution to this rise in snake bite numbers was that more people went on walks with their pets due to the sunny weather. Most of the cases were dogs with the majority of bites to the muzzle but this summer we treated a cat with an adder bite.
“Apparently this particular cat is a hunter and brings dead snakes home all the time. However, on this occasion he was unlucky and got bitten on a front paw. It is really unusual for a cat to get bitten as their hearing is so good and reactions so fast. This was the first cat I’d seen bitten by an adder but it just goes to prove that any animal or human can get bitten.”
The majority of snake bites occurred around the New Forest, with others reported in Wareham and West Lulworth areas – all well-known nature reserves and popular public recreational areas.
Although the chances of death from European adder venom is low, tissue necrosis (death) is likely so early administration of antivenom is vital to ensure a pet’s speedy recovery.
“Antivenom is the most effective when it is used within 30-40 minutes following a suspected bite. Anything over this time and its ability to neutralise venom decreases dramatically as more and more tissue becomes damaged.”
Adder season in the UK generally runs from around late March to October.
An adult European adder is around 50-60cm long and has a black/brown zigzag pattern along its back and V shaped marking on the back of its head.
Although snakes generally only bite in self-defence, dogs can often be bitten after accidently stepping on a snake or disturbing it.
An adder bite will cause local swelling that is often dark coloured and can become severe. The swelling will feature two small puncture wounds in the centre. Symptoms may include pale gums, bruising, dribbling, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, restlessness, drowsiness and lethargy.
Pets bitten by an adder may collapse, have blood clotting problems, kidney failure, liver injury, tremors or convulsions. Bites on or around a pet’s face can cause swelling and result in breathing difficulties.
Dogs should be carried rather than allowed to walk in order to help reduce the spread of venom around the body.
Pet owners who suspect their pet has been bitten by an adder should always seek veterinary help as soon as possible.