A woman from Northumberland has issued a stark warning to fellow dog owners after her beloved pooch was bitten by an adder while out on a walk in Northumberland National Park last month.
Koda, the two-year-old Vizsla, needed urgent veterinary treatment after a nasty encounter with the snake in the Simonside Hills. Her owner, Paula, has shared what happened during the terrifying ordeal in the hopes more dog owners will keep their pets safe while out in the countryside.
Paula. who did not want to give her second name, was walking with daughter Amy and her two dogs at the time and described what happened.
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She told the Chronicle: “The girls (referring to her two dogs, Koda and Willow) had been on the lead for most of the walk for the sheep. We decided to let them off for that section of the walk – something we will now be doing differently in adder season!
“Both dogs went off the track, not too far from us, and we could see they were interested in something so we hotfooted it over and saw the adder – it was small so we thought it was a baby. As we calmly but quickly made our way over, I came up behind Koda so she was blocking my view of the adder – another mistake, I should have kept it in my line of sight.
“When I got to the girls, Koda took a few steps back and rolled on the ground. I thought nothing of it at the time, but while the adder was out of sight, that must have been when it struck her. She must have rolled because she felt it bite her but she made no noise at all.
“Amy stepped back with Willow and I handed Koda to her and went to take a photo of the adder – an absolutely imperative move as I now had an exact time stamp of the bite to within a minute. Not that I knew it at the time because she showed no sign of being bitten. I only got the bush in the photo as the adder slinked off.
“We clipped the girls back on and carried on. Composing ourselves, thinking it was a near miss after checking both girls over, we walked on and at one point we stopped to get some water, I noticed Koda’s right eyebrow was slightly swollen and bruised This was 30 minutes after she was bitten we now know.
“We had been going through some thick heather and I thought there was a chance she could have missed her footing and hit her eye or got heather flicked back in her face. But, something in the back of my mind said that it was the unthinkable .
“We got the adder pack and gave her half an antihistamine and flushed her eyebrow as best we could but she was not having a lot of it and we knew we had to keep her calm. Amy picked Koda up and carried her as far as she could but knew we had to get to the car as soon as we could.
“As we were about three miles from the car and we had not done any “carry training” with the dogs, Koda freaked out, so we decided it would be better for her to walk. We checked her eye and face every couple of minutes to see if the swelling was changing – there was no change.
“About 10 minutes from the car, Koda did start to slow down. We got to the car about two hours and 10 minutes after she was bitten. That is when the swelling started to move down her right cheek and get worse. Amy put the ice pack from the adder pack on the swelling and I called our vets.
“I explained the situation and with the what I thought was a pointless photo I got earlier, I was able to tell the receptionist the exact time, to within a minute, that Koda was bitten.
“She put me on hold for what felt like a lifetime then came back to say she had spoken to the vet and she had said Koda would need the anti-venom. Then went on to tell me that they did not keep anti-venom. She had the information for the closest practice who did stock it and that they would be expecting us as she had already called ahead.
“She then broke the news that the anti-venom alone could be up to £1,000 per vial. I was just relieved that there was an anti-venom available, and that we had the money in savings – we didn’t care how much it was.
“When we got to Orchard House Veterinary Center in Hexham and the vet came out, took one look at Koda and said ‘She does not look too bad at all, she mustn’t of had a lot of venom.’ Instant relief came over me.
“They administered the anti-venom via a drip over the next 30 minutes as well as the other medication she needed. She was back in the car within the hour. We were told that more swelling would come out and go down over the next 24 -48 hours.
“She came home with the catheter in her leg just in case she needed more treatment and we were told to make an appointment with our vets for the next day to have that out and for them to check her over.
“Over the next few hours, the swelling got worse and was evident on her face, neck and chest. She woke up only to go from the car to the house, have her tea and a few toilet breaks. By the next morning the swelling moved around some more and seemed worse on her muzzle. She was a trooper at the vets being fully checked out and having the catheter removed. Almost all of the swelling was gone within five days and the bruise and scab on her eyelid in about 10 days .”
Now Paula has said they will do things differently following the fateful walk.
She said: “We will make changes going forward, but this will not stop us enjoying our beautiful area of Northumberland. We are about to purchase an ’emergency rescue sling’ and start training, with both dogs, so they are comfortable being carried in case of emergencies.
“We will not walk too far from the car. We will remember to put the bells on the girls and they will be kept on lead too during adder season. Something extra that could be helpful would be to check where the nearest vets is to where we are walking before we go and even write the number down.
“Me and Amy staying calm during the situation massively helped to keep Koda calm – I was frantic inside but knew I could not show it. I was so scared that we were not going to get to the car and the vets in time. The tears came on the journey to the vets. I think they were more of relief than panic. It could have been much worse for our baby girl.
“I hope this has helped even just one person to realize that adders in our country are real and they are dangerous. Gain a little bit of knowledge and think ahead. Check out www.adderpacks.com, it’s a little peace of mind having that pack. Keep your pooches safe and they they will still have the best time.
“All we want now is to spread as much awareness as possible, for people to learn from our experience, mistakes and all.”
Fortunately, Amy and Paula were equipped with an adder pack at the time of the incident.
The pack contains an instant ice pack, a sterile saline pod, two antihistamine tablets, two bells and a collar clip, a snake identification card, an adder distribution map, an emergency information card and a ‘What to do’ guide. Adder packs are available to purchase here.