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Crown Vets in Fort William are warning people that the recent sunny spell of weather combined with more time being spent outdoors, has once again resulted in a heightened risk of people and their pets being bitten by adders.
More active during the daytime over the warmer summer months, adders usually shy away from humans, only attacking when confronted by humans and animals or if they feel threatened.
And while the risk of humans being bitten is not particularly high, the curious nature of dogs means that there have already been a number of cases of adder bites in the Highlands this year.
Crown Vets which has clinics in Fort William and Inverlochy, and a number of satellite clinics in and around Lochaber, report that they have seen a number of cases of adder bites this year. On their Facebook page, Crown Vets state: ‘Urgent treatment may be needed if your dog has been bitten, so contact the vets as soon as possible. The sooner your dog sees a vet, the better their chances of making a full recovery.’
They also provided some useful advice to follow if your dog has been bitten, this includes: carry your dog to reduce the spread of the adder’s venom around your dog’s body; bathe the wound in cold water to help control the swelling; keep your dog calm and quiet as you transport him to the vet and don’t attempt any first aid as this can do more harm than good.
According to the Scottish Wildlife Trust ‘The adder is Britain’s only venomous snake, but its poison is generally of little danger to humans: an adder bite can be very painful and cause a nasty inflammation, but despite stories is really only dangerous to the very young, ill or old.’
The NHS advises people to call 999 or to go to A&E immediately if you have been bitten by a snake. Their advice includes: stay calm, most snake bites in the UK are not serious and can be treated, keep the part of your body that was bitten as still as you can; lie in the recovery position if you can; take paracetamol for any pain and to try to remember the colour and pattern of the snake to tell the doctor.
They also advise people who have been bitten to: not go near the snake, or try to catch or kill it, do not try to suck or cut the poison (venom) out of the bite; do not tie anything tightly round the part of the body where the bite is; and do not take aspirin or ibuprofen as they can make bleeding worse.
Adders are relatively easy to recognise, they have a distinct dark zigzag that runs down the length of their bodies as well as an inverted V shape on their neck. The males are usually white or light grey with a black zigzag while the females are brown with a darker brown zigzag pattern. They can, however, also be completely black and adults usually grow to about 35 inches or just under 89cm.
The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust provides the following advice to avoid being bitten: ‘When walking in areas where adders occur, it is best to keep to well-used paths or other open areas, wear shoes or boots (rather than sandals or bare feet), walk slowly, and look closely where you are walking. Bites to walkers are very rare, but when they do occur it is usually when people walk through long vegetation with little protection on their feet. If picking up objects from the ground, watch where you put your hands. Adders are typically resting underground between November and February, often longer in northern parts of Britain, and most sightings of adders tend to be in spring or summer. Do not attempt to handle adders. If you see one on a path, do not attempt to shoo it off – simply walk around it leaving plenty of space, or if that’s not possible to do safely, seek another route. Adders will normally retreat into the vegetation when they sense people approaching. Make sure that children under your supervision know not to catch snakes. You are less likely to see adders in heavily shaded places such as dense woodland, or in extensive areas of very short vegetation such as parks.’
CAPTION; The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust estimates that there are around 50-100 adder bites to people each year and around 100 for dogs. Photograph: The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. No_F30adder01