Snake Bites

Snakes tend to bite if threatened and this means dogs are more likely to be bitten than humans.

The adder is the only poisonous snake in the wild in the UK, however some venomous exotic snakes are kept as pets. If you think your dog has been bitten by an adder, call your vet straight away as dogs are likely to survive adder bites if they are treated quickly.

Recognising a snake bite

  • Local swelling that is often dark-coloured and can become severe
  • You may be able to see 2 small puncture wounds in the centre of the swelling
  • Bites most commonly occur on a dog’s legs or face
  • Signs of pain or nervousness
  • Pale mucous membranes (gums)
  • Bruising
  • Salivation/dribbling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Restlessness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Animal may collapse, have blood clotting problems, tremors or convulsions
  • Bites on or around the face can lead to swelling of the face and muzzle, resulting in breathing difficulties

Seek veterinary help

Seek veterinary attention quickly if your dog is bitten. Carry your dog (rather than allow them to walk) to try and prevent the spread of venom around their body. Apply a wrapped ice pack to help control the swelling and keep your dog calm and warm as you transport them to the vet.

If possible keep the wound below the level of the heart.

If they show signs of anaphylaxis, treat them appropriately.

If they stop breathing, start CPR.

NEVER use a tourniquet as this will cut off the blood supply to the whole limb and is likely to make things worse.

Tip: If you have seen the snake it is really helpful to try and remember its markings and head shape to describe to the medical professionals.


First Aid for Pets provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. It is strongly advised that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course or take our online course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

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