“Our dog was bitten by a snake and it cost £3,500 to save his life”
Sam the Staffie spent three days fighting for his life after being bitten in the nose by a viper while walking on the Gower. He is now recovering at home, but his owner Charlotte wants to warn others of the dangers of biting amid a growing number of reported incidents.
The vet’s bill cost over £3,500 to save her dog’s life and Charlotte, who asked us not to use her surname, said it was worth every penny and urged other pet owners to make sure they had insurance if they could. They had gone for a walk in the Llangennith area of the Gower, a trip they often take, when Charlotte spotted the snake curled up in the path.
Adders are most active between April and July, which is also when the majority of bites have been reported historically. Adults are described as around 50-60cm long and have a black and brown zigzag pattern along the back and V- or X-shaped markings on the back of the head.
Read more:My dog almost died from a viper bite too.
“I’m absolutely terrified of snakes, so I’m always on the lookout for them,” Charlotte said. “I just started screaming when I saw him cowering in the path. Sam came to see what was going on and he bit him on the nose before we could get him away.
“We knew we had to take him to a vet straight away but ours was over an hour and a half away. We got in the car and called them and they said to take him to the vet as soon as possible. nearby and gave us details of the vet which hospital would be taking us in. We phoned them to make sure they had anti-venom as not all practices stocked it. I was fine and was still full of energy, so they just gave him an antihistamine to start with and said they would keep it on so they could monitor his condition.”
Sam was kept under observation, but about eight hours after he was bitten vets became concerned because the bump on his nose had grown much larger and there was swelling in his head and neck. which was beginning to affect his breathing. “We were getting multiple calls day and night,” Charlotte said. “They decided it was time to give him an anti-venom but the side effects they warn you about are terrifying. They even warned that it could lead to death. It’s the same treatment they give humans because there is no specific one for dogs and it can cause them a lot of problems.
“Every dog is different and reacts differently. At this point the swelling was so bad he couldn’t eat or drink and he was breathing like a dinosaur and we were told to brace ourselves.”
It costs £819 per 5ml bottle of anti-venom and Sam needed two before he started to overcome the worst of his symptoms. Charlotte said: “Sam is worth every penny and we have insurance so we weren’t too worried about the £3,500 bill but it still had to be paid in full up front and then we can collect it.
“In conversations we had with friends and locals in Gower while Sam was at the vet hospital, many told us that they had seen loads of vipers over the past couple of years on the beach and there was another dog that came to the vet that night with a bite. They said they hadn’t seen a dog bite in years and then they had two the same night.
“Whether it’s warmer or there have been fewer people in recent years due to the restrictions is certainly a cause for concern and I would like to make sure that more people are aware of the seriousness of the viper bites and make sure they keep a close eye on their dogs.”
If your dog is bitten by a viper, experts say you should:
- Transport your dog as this will help prevent the venom from circulating further into his body
- Bathe the wound in cold water
- Keep your dog warm and as calm and still as possible to prevent the venom from spreading
There are three types of snakes in the UK, but pit vipers are the only poisonous species. The PDSA states that viper bites are especially common between June and August and that it is most common for a dog to be bitten on the face, neck or lower leg.
Adders are normally small gray/brown snakes with a distinctive V-shaped mark on their heads and a dark zigzag pattern on their backs. They are most common in tall grass, woodland, moorland and near the coast in sand dunes and along coastal paths.