Beware of Adders – Chris Brazendale

The day Sally got bitten by an Adder

Whilst walking down Mallerstang Edge with my enthusiastic Border Collie Sally, she found a snake.   On a long lead she was exploring the terrain either side of the path in this most peaceful and interesting ridge around the Cumbria/ North Yorkshire Border.

All of a sudden she yelped and jumped in pain.  Something had bitten her.  I looked but couldn’t see anything but the only thing that crossed my mind was a snake.  in Northern England this seemed most unlikley.   We were four miles from where we had left the car, but surprisingly Sally seemed unaffected by her injury.  We walked to the car but it was now early evening.  I drove home and rang the Vet.  The required £200 non returnable deposit (which would not be covered by our Pet insurance) did not appeal.  Our Vet’s surgery runs a “Hospital” that was open the next day so we decided to wait for that.

In the morning her leg was very swollen, so much so that initially the Duty Vet thought it was a broken leg!  It was later confirmed to be a very large Adder bite.


Thankfully our Vet had some experience of Adder bites having worked in the Ashdown forest area where Horses often get bitten.  The danger was not from the bite itself (apparently unless the Snake wants you for dinner it will not give a full dose of venom) but the intracellular infection caused by the Bacteria from the Snakes mouth.  Luckily Sally is fit and well again but had massive and expensive doses of antibiolitcs ontop of the initial sugery to remove some of the infected tissue.

Terry (Vet) told me Adders sunbathe on south facing slopes especially in Spring and Early summer.  Funnily enough a few months later, i was Mountain biking around Swaledale (not far away) and I noticed lots of signs warning about Snakes and to closely watch children and dogs.  Clearly they are more common in the North than I thought!  Adders mostly detect the presence of humans through noise and vibration but also “smell” via their tongues.  They will mostly make themselves scarce.

So that was our Outdoor adventure in this really quiet area.  In two days we saw one fell runner and no one else. Be careful out there!

Chris Brazendale