Warning after Labrador dog is bitten by adder on Winterton dunes
08:45 21 March 2014
Dog owners are urged to be wary after a much-loved Labrador was bitten by an adder on Winterton dunes.
As warmer weather brings Britain’s only venomous snake out of hibernation, dogs being walked in adder territory are at risk.
Three-year-old Ross, who lives with owners Mary and Eric Baker in Ormesby, fell ill after a walk between Horsey and Winterton last Monday lunchtime. Within hours of getting home, Ross’s side and neck had swollen up, he was slobbering and had no energy.
Broadland House Veterinary Surgery in Stalham couldn’t find any puncture marks at first so Ross was given antibiotics, antihistamine and steroids instead of anti-venom. A few days later, a single bite mark was found inside his mouth - suggesting he had been bitten but the snake had not released a full dose of poison.
“It sounds odd but I knew something was wrong because he just looked so sad,” said Mary, who has had Ross since he was a puppy.
“The chief vet who found the puncture mark in his mouth said it was early for adders and this was definitely the first they’d seen this year.”
Ross is making a fast recovery but Mary, who believes he survived because he is a relatively young and healthy dog, said they will avoid walking on the dunes this summer.
Adders will only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or trodden on. While their venom poses little danger to a healthy adult, their bite is painful and requires medical attention.
Local naturalist Tony Brown said dogs and adders will inevitably meet from time to time.
Britain’s only venomous snake
Adders (Vipera berus berus) are the only venomous snake native to Britain.
They are easily identifiable by the distinctive zig-zag pattern running the length of the body.
They grow between 50-80cm long and feed on a diet of small rodents and lizards.
They prefer to live in woodland or shrubland and will bask in the open but never stray too far from cover.
The best time to see them is in early spring when they emerge from their hibernation dens. By mid April, the males have shed their dull winter skin and are ready to mate.
During the autumn, adult snakes follow scent trails to find their way back to the hibernation site.
“Once they start to emerge from hibernation adders need to bask in the sun to warm they body temperature before they can go off and hunt,” said Tony.
“The problem in Winterton is that the adders choose secluded spots close to cover, which is exactly where dogs like to go exploring and the adders, if they don’t have the energy to get away, will do the first thing they can to defend themselves.
“Even in the summer months adders still need to bask in the sun before they get on with their daily business. But once they’ve warmed up they’ll move fast.
“It’s very unlikely they would bite a human but dogs are that much closer to the ground. They are more at risk, especially in places like Winterton and Horsey and Belton Common.”
Adders (Vipera berus berus) are easily identifiable by their distinctive zig-zag pattern running the length of the body.
They grow between 50-80cm long and feed on a diet of small rodents and lizards and prefer to live in woodland or shrubland, never straying too far from cover.