Daily Doggie Tips #12

Bites and Stings

With the summer comes biting and stinging insects and snakes, (well the adder for us living in the UK). But adders can be a real threat to our dogs when walking in fields and woodlands. You are more likely to see an adder at woodland edge or in the grass, rather than in dense undergrowth, but the latter is possible. They hibernate, so are usually only seen from late spring to late autumn. On very warm days, the adder likes to sunbathe, and the warmth encourages their mating rituals. The adder is not an aggressive snake, and will only bite as a last resort, as a means of self-defense.

Dogs, due to their inquisitive nature, are more likely to be bitten by an adder than we are. It is usually their muzzles, around the eyes or their front legs that get bitten. In humans, there hasn’t been an adder related death for 20 years in this country, and if bitten you are likely to feel very sick, have swelling of the bite site, bruising and drowsiness. Although some people are at more risk as they will be allergic to the bite, which will cause anaphylactic shock, which is a medical emergency.

Dogs usually suffer much more from adder bites due to the location on the body that they are bitten. Adder bites result in local swelling that is often dark coloured and can become severe. You may be able to see 2 small puncture wounds in the centre of the swelling. Your dog will show signs of pain and may appear nervous. Other signs include pale mucous membranes (gums), bruising, salivation/dribbling, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, restlessness, drowsiness and lethargy. Eventually animals may collapse, have blood clotting problems, tremors or convulsions. Bites on or around the face can lead to swelling of the face and muzzle and result in breathing difficulties.

A dog that has been bitten by an adder needs urgent veterinarian treatment. If able, carry your dog, as walking increases the heart rate, which in turn increases the spread of venom around the body. Keep a cold compress on the bite area, and transport to the vets as quickly as possible.

It is a good idea to keep piriton( NOT piriteze or any other type of anti-histamine, and ensure that you have consulted with your vet over the correct dose for your dog ) in your pocket when walking your dog this time of year. If your dog is unlucky enough to be bitten, then administer the piriton as directed before you take your dog to the vet. Remember to tell the vet that you have done this and how much you gave.

Dogs also are prone to bee and wasp stings, mainly on the face or in the mouth, as again they are inquisitive or try to eat them. Stings can be very painful to your dog and can cause an allergic reaction. It should only cause temporary pain, and any residual sting left in the dog can be carefully removed with a tweezer. There will be redness and swelling at the site of the sting. If you are concerned, call your vet for advice.

However, multiple stings or stings in the mouth or throat can be life threatening, and it requires you to get your dog to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. If the throat swells closed, the dog will be unable to breathe and will die.

Dogs, like us, can suffer anaphylactic shock from bites and stings. This too is a medical emergency and your dog must be seen by a Vet immediately. It is not a condition that can be treated at home in any circumstance and can be fatal in some cases.

Anaphylactic shock affects dogs in a different way to people, targeting the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems first with respiratory systems secondarily. The dogs arteries become very stretched and leaky, causing the heart rate and blood pressure to drop dangerously low. The dog will have vomiting and diarrhea, and mucous and secretions will build up in the throat making breathing very difficult. The dog will also become very itchy.

This is a very informative article about anaphylactic shock in dogs, including all signs and symptoms :


It all sounds very scary, but it is better to be aware and prepared. Always have your vets number programmed into your mobile phone, or if you are on holiday, the telephone number of a local vet.

Please remember that the Daily Doggie Tips are not written by a Vet , and should NEVER replace professional Veterinary advice and treatment. If you are worried about your dog, always seek the help of your vet.


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