Dogs and Adders

Springtime sees the end of hibernation for many species of British wildlife – including the adder. So keep your eyes peeled while walking on the heaths and in the woods and you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this often misunderstood but beautiful and interesting creature.

The adder is the only British venomous snake, however it is not considered to be particularly dangerous.

Unfortunately dogs are the animals most likely to be bitten due to their natural curiosity and need to stick their noses into everything! But adder bites are rarely fatal.

Dorset Dogs - Dogs and Adders

To keep you and your pet safe follow these simple tips…


  • Keep to the paths – snakes tend to live in the undergrowth.
    Use a short lead on heathland in summer – this will also protect the young of ground-nesting birds.
  • If you encounter an adder – leave it alone – give it the opportunity to escape to safety.
  • So enjoy your walks and REMEMBER that bites are rarely fatal but must be treated by a vet.

Photo credit: Adder_Rowland Griffin (ARC)

The Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust have produced a helpful leaflet Dogs & Adders Leaflet for dog owners. The leaflet gives good advice on identifying adders and what to do if your pet does get bitten. You can also find some tips on our First Aid for Dogs page.

Some adder facts…


  • Like other snakes, adders shed their skins – you may be lucky enough to find one while out on your walk.
  • Females grow larger than males.
  • The adder is the only snake to be found in the arctic circle – but it’s absent from Ireland, the Outer Hebrides and the Northern Isles.
  • The adder has the widest distribution of all terrestrial snakes.
  • Adders do not feed until after they have mated.
  • Adders are ‘viviparous’ – they give birth to live young.
  • Adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to kill, harm or injure them, and to sell or trade them in any way.