Reports of a dog being bitten by an adder in Scotland have left dog owners understandably worried...

Dog experts at Kennel Store have weighed in and advised owners on what to do if their dog is bitten, the symptoms of an adder bite and how to treat a bite.

“If your dog is bitten by a snake, it can be scary and the symptoms can progress quickly,“ they say.

First steps for a snake bite

  • “Stay calm - it's important to stay as calm as possible to be able to help your dog.
  • If you see the snake, try to remember what it looks like or take a photo whilst maintaining a safe distance. Never go looking for the snake, attempt to get close, touch it or harm it in any way. Adders are a protected species, therefore it is illegal to injure or kill them, and they can bite people if disturbed).
  • Try to keep your dog as still as possible. This prevents the venom from spreading around their body.
  • Don’t touch the bite. Don’t apply a bandage or dressing.
  • Call your vet and inform them of the situation and that you will be bringing your dog into the practice.
  • If possible, bring a car to your dog and depending on their weight, carry them to the car.

Symptoms of an adder bite

“Adder bite symptoms can take anywhere between a few minutes to an hour to develop. They are typically worse in a dog that has been bitten on the face, or neck. If the venom gets into the bloodstream, symptoms will be severe.

Mild symptoms:

  • “Pain and swelling around the bite area
  • Limping (if bitten on a leg)
  • A few small bite marks
  • Serious symptoms:
  • Pale gums
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea

Potentially life-threatening symptoms:

  • “Swelling to the face or neck
  • Weakness and wobbling
  • Severe bruising and abnormal bleeding
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapsing
  • Sudden death can occur if adder venom is injected straight into the bloodstream, so it’s important to act fast


“If your dog has been bitten, it's important they see a vet as soon as possible, don’t delay by attempting treatment at home. Treatment can vary and depends on the symptoms they develop, but it will likely involve:

  • Strong pain relief
  • Attentive monitoring - your vet will monitor your dog closely and keep an eye out for any complications such as heart problems, kidney failure and bleeding issues. It’s likely that your dog will be required to stay in for monitoring and investigations (such as ECG and blood tests) for at least 24 hours unless they only have very mild symptoms, which your vet will be able to identify the severity of your dogs symptoms.
  • A fluid drip - this will support their internal organs (such as the kidneys, liver, and heart), and help if they have gone into shock following the bite.
  • Antihistamines - to help reduce swelling and further symptoms developing.

In more severe cases, your dog might require the following:

  • Anti-venom - anti-venom is sometimes required in more severe cases. However, there is a small risk of drug reaction when using anti-venom, and it can be difficult to get hold of.
  • Antibiotics - this will only be necessary if your dog develops an infection around the site of the wound
  • Surgery - in some cases, dogs can develop necrosis (tissue death) around the bite wound. If your dog develops necrosis, they may require an operation to remove the dead tissue.”

Thankfully, cocker spaniel Maisie, who was bitten by an adder in long grass by a beauty spot car park in Aberdeenshire, has made a full recovery. Owner Lynsey had read about another dog, Ollie, who had died after a snake bite, so she knew she had to get medical help for Maisie quickly.