Adders and ticks: The hidden dangers for dogs

There are the hidden summer dangers pet owners to be mindful of during the hottest months of the year but adders and ticks are not nearly covered enough.

10th July 2014

During the summer months, there are various dangers that pet owners will be made aware of including the risk of leaving your dog in a hot car, what plants can be poisonous to pets and the potential hazards of using certain garden projects such as insecticides, snail pellets and fertilizers.

Whilst dangers such as these are all well reported there are hidden hazards of summer that are not so commonly known.

Spring and summer bring lighter evenings and lots of exciting walks around the countryside, exploring forests, woodlands, sand dunes, moorland and areas with tall grass. All of these places are home to lots of different creatures, great and small, but there’s one in particular that comes out of hibernation in the warmer days of spring, the adder.

Where will you find adders?

Adders are fairly widespread throughout Britain and can often be found soaking up the sunshine on open tracks and paths in areas of rough, open countryside along with the edge of woodlands. They are the only venomous snake native to Britain and whilst their bite has not proved fatal to a human in over 20 years, they can have much more severe consequences for dogs.

Signs to look out for

While bites are not too common, it’s handy to know what to look out for, in case it happens.

  • Swelling around the wound
  • 2 puncture wounds in the centre of the swelling
  • Signs that your dog is in pain, whimpering, limping, nervousness, etc.

Larger dogs seem to cope with an Adder bite much better than smaller breeds but if any dog, no matter what size, is a ‘reactor’ then once bitten they will go into anaphylactic shock. Either way, it’s important to take your dog to the vet if they’ve been bitten.

Since dogs are naturally inquisitive creatures so it’s important to be conscious of where you are walking and keep to the track where possible. If a dog finds an adder, they’ll more than likely go up to it to investigate.  An adder may perceive this as a threat and strike, usually on the dog’s muzzle or lower limbs.

Treatment for snake bites

If your dog is bitten by an adder, or even if you simply suspect an adder bite, then you should seek veterinary attention straight away. Don’t panic, though the signs of an adder bite can be severe the majority of cases survive once they’ve received the appropriate treatment.

Full recovery will usually take up to 5 days and your dog would then be back home, safe and sound.

Ticks and pets

Another hidden danger for pets during the summer is the emergence of ticks. These parasitic arthropods will attach themselves to a dog where there is little or no hair, such as in and around the ears, and feed on the blood.

Once a tick has locked onto a dog, it will stay in place until it has finished feeding so they can be on your dog for lengths of anywhere between several hours to several days.

What diseases do ticks carry?

Ticks will congregate in tall grass or plants in wooded areas waiting for potential hosts and are known carriers of diseases that can often transmit illnesses, such as Lyme disease, which can seriously threaten a dog’s health. Symptoms of a disease that has been transmitted by a tick can include joint swelling, lethargy, lameness and fever.

In addition, some dogs that are latched onto by ticks may suffer from what is known as ‘tick paralysis’, which means a dog may find it hard to walk, with the possibility of an onset of full paralysis, until the ticks are removed.

How to remove a tick

The best way to remove a tick is by using a specially designed tool, such as the O’Tom Tick Twister. The key to using this tool is by approaching and securing the tick from the side of the body, lifting very lightly and turning in one direction two or three times until the tick detaches itself.

The design of the tool allows you to twist the tick’s teeth out from the skin, whereas simply pulling it out will leave the head or teeth rooted in the skin. Once the tick has been removed disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.


It can be a good idea to keep the tick for identification should your dog become ill within the following weeks after the bite. To do this pop the tick – along with a piece of paper with the date written on it – into a sealed plastic bag and store it in the freezer. This will help your vet to identify the tick responsible for the bite and help them to make to an accurate diagnosis.

Dogs love to explore when out and about and it can be easy for them to accidentally startle an adder or go rummaging through long grass and get latched onto by ticks. This shouldn’t stop you or your dog from exploring the great outdoors, it’s important as dog owners to be aware of these potential dangers and how to react if the worst happens.

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