Dog owners asked to remain vigilant after Cheshire family pet bit by snake
A vet is warning dog owners of the risks of snake bites in the warm weather after a Cheshire family’s spaniel was left with serious injuries on a North Wales beach.
Alison and Mark Wallace were on holiday when their five-year-old field spaniel, named Osker, is believed to have been bitten by an adder while in a recently strimmed area of grassland close to some sand dunes.
Although he continued to play and fetch his ball normally, he became lethargic when they returned home and later developed soreness and pain on his left side.
In this time, the snake’s toxic venom caused the skin on Osker’s abdomen to blacken, die and peel off while causing severe damage to his liver. The canine spent almost two weeks fighting for his life at Willows Veterinary Hospital – based in Northwich.
The couple sought veterinary advice on holiday, and it was suspected Osker had pulled a muscle but his condition gradually deteriorated and they were forced to return to their home near Delamere Forest early.
Veterinary surgeon Mairead Currie, 24, said she had ‘not seen a case as severe as Osker’, believing he had sustained multiple bites.
She added that vets would have been very concerned for his health if he had not received proper care to fight the poison and infection in the days following the bite.
Ms Currie said: “Obviously, these things are very difficult to predict. It is more about getting the message out there that it is a risk and to follow the necessary advice. Snakes are more common in some places than others, and tall grassland is a particular risk. It’s definitely something to bear in mind if you have a wandering dog.”
Alison said: “We are just so grateful to everybody. They were so good at communicating with us and everyone was so friendly and lovely. They made difficult time bearable.”
Adders have recently come out of their winter hibernation and can bite in self-defence if cornered or disturbed by an inquisitive pet.
The species is the only venomous snake native to the UK and will only attack if threatened. Adders live in a variety of habitats including sand dunes, open countryside, meadows and moorland.
Symptoms of an adder bite include painful swelling, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Ms Currie added that the majority of bitten dogs make a full recovery with appropriate treatment.
She said: “Osker was really poorly when he came to us and it is only through extensive supportive liver medications, broad spectrum antibiotics and fluid therapy that he came through. His wounds were reassessed daily and the situation was very dynamic but with adequate pain relief we managed to keep him comfortable. The message is, if you notice anything unusual, take them to a vet immediately. It’s better to err on the side of caution,” said Mairead.