Dogs and snakes

You’d be forgiven for thinking that snakes aren’t a great risk in the UK. However, just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

8th May 2015

You’d be forgiven for thinking that snakes aren’t a great risk in the UK. Even the most adventurous dog walker is unlikely to spot any serpents on their daily outings. However, just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

There are two snakes native to the UK, the grass snake and the adder. Both species are fairly shy and small when you compare them to pythons and anacondas, but you might be surprised to hear that some UK grass snakes can grow up to 2 metres in length!

While your pets are unlikely to find themselves in a confrontation with a snake it’s certainly not impossible, and if it does happen it could prove fatal if you don’t act quickly. In order to make your job as an owner easier we’ve put together this guide to snake bites.

Grass snake

How do I identify it?

Grass snakes are usually found near ponds or in meadows. They can actually stay submerged in water for around an hour if they choose! They are greenish-grey in colour, with a yellow band at their head and a darker pattern of scales down their backs that looks like broken rings.

Are they dangerous?

While grass snakes are on the larger side, they are less likely to pose a threat to your pet as they are not venomous. If attacked they are more prone to deterring predators by releasing foul-smelling secretions. However, if they are backed into a corner, there is a chance that they will bite. This bite could penetrate your pet’s skin, leaving them in pain and at risk of infection. This should be immediately treated like any other open wound, and you should seek veterinary attention.


How do I identify it?

Adders are typically small and slender, measuring to around 90cm at the largest. They have a distinctive V shaped marking on their heads, and are generally found on the edges of fields and woodland and in sandy areas. They favour heather as they can lie on top of it to bask in the sun, or hide in it when the weather is poor.

Are they dangerous?

Adders are venomous snakes, which means that they can prove rather dangerous if they bite you or your pet. While their venom is quite mild it will require immediate medical or veterinary attention, and an antidote will have to be administered to counteract the venom. In some cases adder bites can be fatal.

Unfortunately spotting a snake bite isn’t always simple. Snakes will usually keep themselves hidden, so even if your dog makes a noise when they are bitten you might not necessarily imagine a snake to be the cause! It might be a good idea to give your dog a thorough pat-down as a matter of routine following walks. If you discover any tender, sore, hot or painful spots on their body this could warrant further investigation.

If you have any doubts or concerns about your pet’s welfare you must seek the advice of your veterinarian as soon as possible.

As responsible owners we are aways looking out for our dogs to ensure their safety, but unfortunately we cannot protect them against every eventuality - dog insurance can help you to cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your best friend gets injured or falls ill, helping you to provide security for them in case of the unexpected.

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