How to keep your pet cool this summer

cat on sunny day

keep dogs cool in summerIf you have a Dog……….

Dogs are not very good at keeping themselves cool so they will need your help. Ensure they have plenty of water, whether they are in the house or out on a walk. If you are at home keep the water in a heavy bowl so it can’t be easily knocked over

Don’t keep your dog in a car. You may think it’s ok to do this as you are leaving the window open, however, it’s not enough to keep the car cool. According to the RSPCA if it’s 22C outside, within an hour it can be 47C inside the car. Dogs die this way every year, please don’t let this happen to your dog.

Take your dog for a walk at cooler times of the day. Go in the morning and the evening instead.

If your dog is outside all day make sure there is plenty of shade as well as lots of water.

Regularly groom your dog. If you have a long haired breed, have the hair trimmed to help keep it cool.

Do you know the signs of heatstroke? Here is a checklist of what to look out for. Heavy panting, very red gums/tongue, excessive salivation, a rapid pulse, lack of co-ordination, lethargy, reluctance or inability to rise after collapsing, vomiting, diarrhoea and in extreme cases loss of consciousness.  If you see your dog displaying any of these symptoms ensure you take immediate action. Try to cool your dog down gradually as heatstroke can be fatal.  Douse your dog in cool water (not cold or iced water) and let it drink small amounts of cool water (again not cold or iced) until their breathing is more normal.  Then take your dog to the vets to be checked to make sure everything is ok.

cat on sunny dayIf you have a cat……….

Cats love the warm weather and are a lot better at keeping themselves cool. However, if it is excessively hot here are a few things you can do.

If you have a cat that likes to go outside, try not to let it out between 10am and 3pm so it avoids the hottest times of the day. If they are indoor cats keep blinds shut and curtains closed as this helps to keep the house cool.

Make sure your cat has access to plenty of water.

If you notice your cat is sleeping more it’s probably nothing to worry about. Cats are sensible and will nap more on a hot dayrather than spend their time running around. Maybe they are the more intelligent than dogs?

Pay attention to your cat’s feet. Cats and dogs have sweat glands in their paws. If you notice your cat is leaving wet paw prints it will need to have more water to replenish its fluids. You could try cooling your cat down by dipping its paws in water but it may not be pleased with you doing that.

If you see your cat panting, it doesn’t automatically mean it has heatstroke. Cats do pant but they rarely do it. However, if you think your cat is panting excessively check for other signs of heatstroke and take immediate action.

keep your rabbit coolIf you have a small furry pet……….

As always, make sure they have access to lots of clean water

Make sure you keep them clean.  When the weather is hot it results in more flies and maggots. This can lead to flystrike. This can fatally affect rabbits.

Keep your pet groomed and if it’s a long haired breed, have it trimmed to help keep it cool.

Keep hutches in the shade. It may mean you have to move it around during the day of you don’t have a permanently shaded spot.  Make sure the hutch is off the ground as this improves ventilation and can help to keep it cool.

Give small animals food that contains lots of water such as celery and apple. This will help keep them hydrated.

Spraying a water mist on larger animals such as rabbits is a good way to keep them cool.  Remember not to spray them in the face as they will not like it.

There are many other ways to keep your pet cool and a lot of them are common sense. A good way to look at it is if you are uncomfortable because of the heat there is a good chance your pet will be too.  If you need any extra information and advice please contact us  and we will be happy to have a chat.

ID Tags

david-schap-128015As you already know, if you have a dog it should be microchipped. This is because on 6th April 2016 it became compulsory for all dogs to be have a microchip implanted (you can read more about the regulation change HERE). We were recently asked if a dog needs a chip if it already has a collar and ID tag on. This has come up a few times so we thought it would be a good idea to write a blog on the subject as it seems to be a little confusing to some people.

All dogs need to have a microchip, unless a vet certifies it can’t for health reasons. Also, the Control of Dogs Order 1992 states that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the owner’s name and address (with postcode) engraved or written on it. It can be on the collar itself or the details can be added to a tag. A telephone number is optional; however, it might be a good idea to have that on there as well. If your dog is in a public place and doesn’t have an ID tag on you could be fined up to £5000.

There are exceptions to this:

  • Any pack of hounds,
  • Any dog while being used for sporting purposes,
  • Any dog while being used for the capture or destruction of vermin,
  • Any dog while being used for the driving or tending of cattle or sheep,
  • Any dog while being used on official duties by a member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces or Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise or the police force for any area,
  • Any dog while being used in emergency rescue work, or
  • Any dog registered with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

If your dog isn’t microchipped, please make an appointment to see us.

You can read more about the Control of Dogs Order 1992 by clicking HERE and if you have any questions regarding microchipping your pet please contact the clinic or leave a question on our Facebook page



Do you remember the John Lewis advert featuring Buster the Boxer. If you hadn’t seen it over Christmas the clip showed a boxer jumping around on a trampoline and having lots of fun. Figures released by the Kennel Club showed that searches for Boxer puppies on its Find a Puppy website rose by 160 per cent on the day following the release of the advert. This is an increase which has continued to grow.

Boxer Dogs

The information has raised concerns that people are impulse buying boxer puppies without properly researching the breed. They think many boxers will end up in rescue centres because there will be those who can’t handle them.

Do you want a Boxer? Do your research!!!

Here is a brief overview of a Boxer dog to give you an idea of what having one will be like.

As the John Lewis advert suggests, Boxers are fun and playful. This is true. Watching a Boxer play and bounce is great to watch. Sometimes you see them and think they are complete nutcases because of how they are behaving. It is pure joy.

Boxers don’t need a lot of grooming. They have lovely short hair. If you are looking for a dog that doesn’t need a lot of brushing, then Boxers could be a good choice.

Also, they are great around other pets and children which makes them ideal family dogs. Although they will need socialising from an early age to ensure they are friendly with other animals.

They can make great guard dogs as they look quite imposing. They can be quick to stand up and bark at strangers. Although there is a good chance if a stranger came into the house they are more likely to want to play with them

So far it’s not looking too bad, a Boxer sounds ideal. However……….

Boxers slobber and drool. If you are not a fan of this, you should cross this breed off your list.  They suffer with flatulence, they wheeze, snort and snore loudly.  The breathing and snoring is down to the shape of their face and nose. You can read more about this on our blog called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) – Click HERE

Boxers can be stubborn and very head strong.  An owner will need to be very confident in taking charge or else the dog will be disobedient and hard to control.

They need lots of exercise and mental stimulation or else you may find holes in the garden, chewed furniture and other destructive behaviour.

Whilst Boxers jump and bounce around for fun they can go over the top especially when they are young. Many new owners may find their rowdiness difficult to handle.

If Boxers are not socialised at an early age they could become aggressive around other animals.

Finally, A boxer’s lifespan isn’t very long and they can suffer from many health problems such as:

Eye Diseases
Hip Dysplasia – Read our blogs on the subject HERE for part 1 and HERE for part 2
Heart Disease

We also have a blog detailing further issues with Boxers. You can read it HERE
Hopefully this has given you an insight to what is involved in owning a Boxer.  If you still want to buy one ensure you do more research into the breed and in to the breeders to make sure you are not buying one from a puppy farm. See our blogs about buying a puppy – Click HERE for Part 1, HERE for part 2 and HERE for part 3. Alternatively, visit your local rescue centre and adopt

boxer dog

Pet Dental Awareness Month

As part of our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our clients, we are supporting Pet Dental Awareness Month.  Our experts have written some handy tips and advice to help you keep your pet’s oral hygiene in tip top condition.

Poor dental hygiene can be a source of chronic pain and discomfort for many pets.  Most owners are unaware of this discomfort because most animals will not cry out in the presence of such pain – they just tolerate it.

If there is an infection in the mouth it can allow bacteria into the body via the blood stream and cause infections elsewhere. Kidney, heart, lung and liver problems can all be caused by poor oral health.  Bad teeth can therefore just be the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

How will I know if my pet has bad teeth?

  1. Bad breath
  2. Sore mouth
  3. Difficulty eating
  4. Loose teeth or tooth loss
  5. Pawing or rubbing the mouth
  6. Bleeding gums
  7. Yellow or brown tartar on teeth
  8. Dribbling

The first thing to do is to look in your pet’s mouth.  Halitosis (bad breath) is caused by bacteria in the mouth, so this may alert you to the presence of dental disease.

Tartar is the hard brown accumulation which occurs on teeth. It is caused by mineralisation of plaque which in turn is caused by bacterial action against food particles in the mouth. The presence of tartar leads to gingivitis (gum inflammation).  The gums become red, sore and prone to bleeding when touched.  Tartar and gingivitis will eventually lead to periodontal disease where inflammation and infection cause destruction of the tissue around the tooth.  Affected teeth loosen and may eventually fall out.

If the disease is severe, affected animals may eat on one side of their mouth, lose weight or generally fail to thrive.  Older cats especially may start to look rather tatty as they may start to groom themselves less enthusiastically.

When dental disease is suspected your pet should be examined by a vet.

Tips for keeping your pet’s teeth clean and mouth healthy

  • Brushing Regular tooth brushing is the best way of keeping your pet’s teeth clean. Both dogs and cats will generally allow tooth brushing once they are used to the idea but it may take a few weeks to establish a regular routine.    It’s very important to use a pet toothpaste as human toothpaste can be dangerous for pets
  • Diet Your pet’s diet can be very important in preventing tartar build-up on teeth. Try to feed your pet good quality dry foods rather than soft foods, as the latter tend to stick to the teeth, allowing the rapid build-up of tartar. Some diets are especially formulated to help keep teeth in the best possible condition. If you are considering changing your pet’s diet, please speak to our vets and nurses for advice.
  • Dental chews can be extremely helpful, especially for dogs. Please take care that they are not too rich or too big for your pet.
  • Start early Some pets can be a little shy of their mouth being opened. A gentle mouth examination should be part of your general puppy training (along with looking in the ears and looking at the feet – all sensitive areas) to get your pet used to this type of handling. Our nursing team will show you how to do this when you attend routine puppy checks or one of our puppy parties. (If applicable).
  • Regular check-ups with your veterinary practice are essential for your pet’s oral health.Please use the below voucher to take advantage of our special offer for Pet Dental Awareness Month


Cat Flu

Feline Influenza or Cat Flu as it is more popularly known is similar to a human cold. It’s not usually serious if you have a healthy adult cat. However, it can fatal to young kittens, old cats and those that have an immunity problem such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (read our blog on FIV HERE)

Cat Flu is very common in unvaccinated cats and can easily spread. As the saying goes “prevention is far better than cure” so ensure you get your cat vaccinated.

What are the signs of Cat Flu?

 There are many symptoms to look out for, including

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Dribbling
  • Quiet/subdued behaviour
  • Loss of appetite
  • High temperature
  • Coughing
  • Loss of voice
  • Aching muscles/joints

What causes Cat Flu?

It’s usually caused by one of two types of virus (feline herpes virus or feline calicivirus) along with bacteria. Once the cat is infected they begin to shed virus particles in discharge from their eyes, nose and mouth. It can be caught from other cats with flu or healthy cats that carry the virus.  Also, as the virus can survive several days in the open, cats can catch it from infected food bowls or from other people who have come into contact with an infected cat.

Can Humans catch it from their cat?


Can Cat Flu be treated?

Currently there isn’t really a cure for Cat Flu. As already mentioned a healthy cat should able to fight this off. Young kittens, older cats and those with immunity issues may need veterinary attention.  If your cat gets the flu they will need lots of TLC to get better. There are somethings you will need to do to ensure they get well as soon as possible.

  • Make sure there is somewhere warm and comfortable for them to sleep
  • Ensure there is plenty of water available. They may not feel like drinking but encourage them to drink. It will help keep them hydrated and breakdown mucus in the nose and throat.
  • Make sure they eat little and often. However, they might not want to at first. Due to having the flu, their sense of smell and taste will decrease so try to feed them something that has a strong smell and taste such as sardines or pilchards to kick start their appetite. If you are struggling to feed and water your cat, take them to the vet. They will be able to offer alternative foods and may also prescribe anti-biotics to help fight off the flu.
  • Cats may feel stuffy and congested so if you are having a bath or shower, put them in the same room so the heat and steam will help with their breathing.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on them and if they take a turn for the worse take them to the vets as soon as possible
  • If you have other cats in the house keep them away from the infected cat and ensure you regularly wash your hands so you don’t spread the virus around.

Will my cat make a full recovery?

In most cases yes. However, some cats may be left with certain issues such as a persistent runny nose.  If your cat has had flu and you notice it hasn’t fully cleared up after two or three weeks take them to see a vet for a review.

Can I prevent my cat getting Cat Flu?

Ensuring your cat is vaccinated will be a massive help.  The cat flu vaccine is given as part of the annual vaccination programme and will help to protect your cat. Please note, the vaccination may not always prevent infection but it will significantly reduce the severity of the virus.

If you have any questions about this subject feel free to call the clinic or you can leave a question / send a private message on our Facebook page.

Heatstroke – Mannie’s Story

A few days ago I picked up my dog from Cherrydown Basildon Veterinary Hospital where he had been for 4 days following a frightening attack of heatstroke.  Although I have many years experience with dogs I had not been faced with having to deal with this condition before and, had I not known the basic procedures to follow, I am quite sure my boy, a 70 kg Bullmastiff, wouldn’t be alive today.  Even so, without the treatment he received at Cherrydown over the next few days, without doubt he would not have survived.

It was an excessively hot day and Mannie, the Bullmastiff in question, appeared to be panting more than usual so I brought him inside so that he could lay on the cool tiles in the kitchen.  He was restless and went into the garden and lay in the shade of the bushes where he was violently sick.  I ran to help him and he walked towards me, staggered, then collapsed.

Picture1So, recognising the signs of heatstroke, I immediately drenched him with cool water, lifting his legs so that the water played on his groin and under his front legs.  I also fetched bags of frozen vegetables from the freezer and placed them on his head and under his armpits.  I was on my own and it was impossible for me to move him even an inch so I brought the phone from the house to ring for assistance.  I also took his temperature, which was an alarming 42.2.  All this time I had the hose playing on him constantly, concentrating on his groin, under arms and feet.  I took his temperature again, which was now 41.5, still dangerously high.  Cherrydown tried to find an ambulance service to come out to me but, as there was none available, they sent 2 nurses who eventually, with the help of my husband, who had arrived home at the same time, carried him into their vehicle to transport him to their surgery in Basildon.  Once at the surgery, they immediately placed him on a drip and injected him to rehydrate him.  Over the next 48 hours it was feared he wouldn’t survive the damage that severe overheating can cause to the internal organs but eventually he was returned home to us and is still recovering now.  We shall be eternally grateful to Cherrydown for the 24 hour care they gave to our boy.  I hope this information might act as a warning to the dangers of heatstroke in hot weather, as my boy was not in a confined space, he was free in the garden and had access to plenty of water so it can happen at any time.

Our Vet Kim looked after Mannie……

On 24th August we were called to say that Mannie had collapsed after lying in the garden and despite  efforts to cool him, his temperature and distress had increased. Due to his size, Cherrydown had to attend to help bring Mannie into the practice. Heat stroke is not confined to dogs being left in hot cars and many dogs, particularly brachycephalic breeds of a dark colour, are susceptible to heat stroke if they lie in the sun for too long on hot humid days and unfortunately, dogs will often preferentially lie in the sun but once develop the increased temperature, are less likely to move themselves to a cooler area.

Mannie was immediately placed on fluids and covered ice packs placed in his groin and armpits to cool him. It is important not to submerge them in cold water as this can send them into shock and wet blankets can actually trap a heat layer between the dog and the blanket, and is best avoided as can actually increase their temperature. Mannie was showing signs of aggression, very unlike him, intermittently, due to the swelling of his brain caused by the heat stroke. Some dogs may develop seizures, which can become impossible to control and warrant euthanasia, so he was monitored closely for any signs of deterioration. He was given pain relief, for likely head pain associated with the brain swelling and antibiotics. In dogs with heat stroke, damage can occur to the gut leaving them prone to bacteria leaking from the gut to the abdomen, which can be a potentially fatal complication. He was also started on drugs to reduce inflammation within the bowel.

Mannie’s temperature came down in kennels but he vomited blood and developed bloody diarrhoea, typical of a dog with heat stroke. Blood work showed his muscles were starting to break down due to overheating, which can lead to kidney failure. Amazingly, Mannie has recovered fully, was neurologically normal after a few hours and able to walk around unaided 12 hours later and went home within a week. We will still be monitoring him for signs of kidney damage in the immediate future but so far, he has recovered spectacularly, thanks to the rapid intervention by his owner and is back to his usual gentle giant self.

We would like to thank Janet for allowing us to use this story to highlight the dangers. Please leave any questions on our facebook page.


Why do dogs eat poo?

Why do dogs eat poo?

This might be a fairly unpleasant subject but it is a question we get asked a lot in the clinic and on Facebook.  There are many reasons why this happens and it could depend on their age, their training, their living conditions or their diet. Here are some of them.

Dogs are born to eat it

Thousands of years ago, before dogs were domesticated, they ate everything and anything even the waste of other animals (including other dogs). In a pack, if one of the dogs was unwell, the other dogs would eat the poo of the sick animal so it would hide the fact they had a weak member of the group. Also, a mother with pups would regularly eat the stools of her little ones to keep the den clean and to ensure no smells were left around to attract predators.


Learned behaviour

Dogs are quick learners and will often learn things you don’t want them to do.  Puppies, for example, learn by putting anything that appears in front of their face in their mouth.  Generally, puppies that eat poo will grow out of the habit very quickly. Ensure you clean any mess up as soon as possible so they don’t have the chance to pick it up

If you come home and find a little surprise package on the kitchen floor, shouting at your dog could cause them to eat their own mess. They will associate you telling them off and cleaning it up with what they have done so next time it happens they will eat it to cover their tracks.


Dogs might eat poo to get the nutrients it is not currently getting. This could be because the food they eat is low quality or they are not being fed enough.  Also, if they are being over fed, their body can’t absorb all it needs from the food the first time, so the dog recycles their nutrient rich waste. If a dog is lacking in certain vitamins they could eat feaces to get what their body needs.


Other reasons

If a dog spends a lot of time on their own, they could eat it out of boredom. They could use it as a way to get attention from their owner. Any attention is better than none. Stress and anxiety can cause a dog to eat animal waste, and finally they are just copying what they have seen another dog do.

Is it bad for my dog?

If you have a healthy, vaccinated dog then it shouldn’t cause them any harm if it’s a once in a blue moon event. However, if your dog is eating poo regularly you should take your dog to the vet as there may be an underlying issue such as:

  • Diabetes, Cushing’s, thyroid disease, and other conditions that might cause an increase in appetite
  • malabsorption syndromes
  • A diet deficient in nutrients and calories
  • Parasites

How do I stop my dog eating poo?

Firstly, as mentioned above, if they are doing it on a regular basis, take them to the vet to be checked.

  • Look at their diet. Does it need to change? Speak to your vet for advice
  • Make sure you pick up your dog’s waste at home and when out for a walk so they are not tempted to eat it.
  • Keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Allow plenty of play time, walks and toys etc.
  • If they leave a mess in the home don’t shout at them.
  • Ensure you have a solid recall or rock solid response to a cue meaning “leave that alone”

These are just a few reasons and solutions on why dogs do it and how you can prevent it. If you have any further questions, please call the clinic or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Cherrydown joins the Linnaeus Group

jnJonathan and Rachel Nurse have been the directors of Cherrydown for many years and have taken the practice from strength to strength, offering what we believe is excellent veterinary and customer care.  As we prepare to say good bye to our owners and hello to a new chapter with Linnaeus, Jonathan wanted to share this statement with you.

“After joining the partnership at Cherrydown over 20 years ago, I decided the time was right to sell. I spoke to a number of buyers and chose Linnaeus because they share the same ethos in making care for the patients their top priority.  With their buy and build strategy and growing network of referral and top quality first opinion practices, I believe they can progress the level of care provided to all our patients.  I also chose Linnaeus because I believe they were best placed to provide ongoing job security and career progression to all my staff.”


There will be very little change on a day to day basis and our service and commitment to our clients will continue as normal.  Kevin Wood has become clinical director and will replace Jonathan as the senior vet.  Kevin joined the practice in 2010 and has both veterinary and pharmaceutical qualifications.  He has worked alongside Jonathan for a number of years and has a wealth of experience and is already known to the majority of Cherrydown clients. Kevin has been involved in training many of the vets who have worked at Cherrydown and is ideally positioned to step into Jonathan’s shoes and take over the role of clinical director.

Shaun Plunkett, practice manager, will take on more of the day to day management decisions of the business.  Shaun joined the practice in 2011 with a customer service and management background. He holds the Certificate of Veterinary Practice Management and has been assisting Jonathan in managing the practice since 2013.

sp and kwShaun and Kevin’s comments: “We are obviously sad that Jonathan is leaving the practice as he has been a good mentor, friend and colleague during our time here.  This time was always going to happen at some point and we would like to wish both Jonathan and Rachel all the best in the years ahead.  We are committed to upholding the high standards Jonathan has set and with the backing of Linnaeus we are looking forward to making Cherrydown an even better practice committed to the same values of excellence in clinical care and customer service. Our colleagues at Linnaeus are keen that we maintain Cherrydown’s unique identity and will be supporting us to continue to offer you guaranteed care for your pet 24 hours a day, every day of the year.”

Jonathan concludes: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your loyal custom over the years and I look forward to watching Cherrydown Vets going from strength to strength.  I will be around until the end of December to ensure a smooth handover but I am 100% confident in both Kevin’s and Shaun’s abilities in ensuring the best of care to all our patients and clients.”

We will be happy to answer any questions you may have and we look forward to being of service to you and your pets in the years ahead.  To find out more about Linnaeus and the other practices in the group please follow this link

Cherrydown Vets


Why do dogs eat grass?

We regularly receive questions from our clients, either by phone or via our Facebook page, asking about issues relating to their pet. However, every now and again we get asked general questions just because people are interested in knowing the answer. We thought we would write a blog about this very popular question.

why do dogs eat grass?

So, why do dogs eat grass?

The honest answer is we don’t know. No one really knows, but there are various theories.

  1. The most popular theory is to make themselves sick. If a dog feels ill, they may ask to be let out and munch on the nearest patch of grass they can find. As the grass goes down it tickles their throat and makes them vomit. Also, dogs may find temporary relief from eating grass if they have an upset stomach or are a bit gassy.  This sort of behaviour doesn’t happen often so if your dog starts eating more grass than a Jersey Cow and vomit on a regular basis it might be worth you taking a trip to the vets to make sure there isn’t an underlying issue.
  1. Some people believe that dogs will eat grass because they are trying to improve their own digestion. It could be they are lacking fibre in their diet and are trying to add more. If you think your dog is lacking in fibre you could give them supplements or change their food.  If you plan on doing this, you should speak to your vet beforehand so they can recommend the best food/supplements and make sure there are no other issues.

why do dogs eat grass?

  1. Dogs might eat grass because they are bored or are seeking attention. If this is the case take them for regular walks or play with them more often to see if the grass eating stops. If they are stuck in the back garden with nothing to do, then they might turn to chewing the cud just for something to do.
  1. A dog might eat grass because it’s a natural instinct dating back to the days when dogs were wild and free and not pets. Dogs are not natural meat eaters. They are omnivores and before they became pets they would eat anything and everything from berries and grass to prey they had caught. They would also eat every part of the prey such as meat, bones, organs and the contents of the stomach which contained greenery and plants. This ensured they had a balanced diet. Even today, wild dogs will eat vegetation so it could be just animal instinct to eat grass
  1. It could be down to the fact your dog loves the taste and texture of grass. When I was young my dog would eat grass regularly. Not just any old grass either. He would find the greenest and thickest patches of grass and just eat and enjoy it like he was at a free salad bar. At the time he was checked out and no issues were found. It’s just something he did and didn’t cause him any harm.

why do dogs eat grass?

Overall it’s not dangerous for your dog to eat grass. Whilst it might not do them much good in terms or nutrition it won’t do them any harm either. However, one thing to point out is that gardens nowadays may have been sprayed with weed killer or other pesticides. In large quantities it can be dangerous to animals so keep that in mind.

If you notice your dog is eating unusual amounts of grass and you are concerned take them to your vet for a check-up. It might be nothing serious but it’s always best to check.

If you have any questions about this subject or anything pet health related feel free to leave a comment or send a private message via our Facebook page

Lexi and the adder bite

Lexi is an 8 year old Cavalier King Charles and on Thursday evening she was out enjoying the sunshine playing in the garden. All of a sudden she spotted something and being playful and inquisitive she went to investigate. Unfortunately what she had seen was a snake and she wasn’t aware of the dangers. The snake reared up and went for her. Her owners saw the snake attack but didn’t realise she had been bitten. They got Lexi away and took a photo of the snake. Lexi’s face began to swell and they realised she must have been bitten and rushed her in to see us. She was seen as an emergency by our duty vet Josh Aldred at around 6.30pm.

snake 1
Photo of the actual snake that bit Lexi

Snake bites can be nasty but most aren’t fatal in the UK. The good news about snakes is that we only have one native venomous species in the UK – the Adder (Vipera berus). Even better news is that they’re largely elusive creatures who are about as keen on running into you as you are of running into them.

The bad news is that if anything is likely to sniff them out it’s your inquisitive best friend.

Before we go on, it’s important to stress that snakes shouldn’t be feared; (a large amount of respect doesn’t go amiss of course); they have a role in the ecosystem, and the chances are you’ve probably walked past scores of them without knowing. It’s also worth noting that the native British Adder’s numbers are dwindling, hence there are a number of breeding programmes around the country.

snake 2Josh assessed Lexi and could see her face was swollen. Initial treatment was supportive with fluids, antibiotics and anti inflammatories. Her heart was checked and she was closely monitored. She improved well over night and was happy to eat. Sometimes we give anti-venom but it wasn’t considered necessary in this case.


By Friday morning the swelling had started to go down  and Lexi was more comfortable. The signs are good that Lexi should make a good recovery but her owners will be keeping a close eye on her at home for the next few days.

snake 3
Josh with Lexi

Now, short of curbing your dog’s natural instinct to explore in hedgerows, forests and fields some knowledge of what to look for and what to do will come in handy.

If your dog is bitten he or she will let you know. If you hear a yelp, check them over. You’re looking for two puncture marks about an inch apart. Of course with long haired dogs this is easier said than done.

Facts to bear in mind

*We see an average of one suspected snake bite a week during Spring and Summer.

*High risk times are sunny days when the adders like to bask.

*Classical signs of a suspect bite is a sudden onset and unexplained swelling.

*It goes without saying the experience is painful.

*Sometimes fang bites are evident but not always. They’re often found on the face where the dog investigates, but we also see a lot of bites on the leg area causing acute swelling and lameness.

*The major short term risk is anaphylactic shock and swelling around the head and neck which causes breathing difficulties. Rapid treatment with iv fluids and possibly antivenom is needed. In the longer term, the snake bite toxin can cause local tissue necrosis (death) resulting in very serious infections and sloughing of tissue (bits falling off) leaving very large wounds that need surgical reconstruction.

*The dose of toxin compared to the size of the animal often determines whether the bite is fatal. i.e a baby adder biting a rottweiler is less risky than an adult adder biting a jack russel or a cat. Most of the time we have no idea at the time of treatment the dose of venom given.

*Human antivenom is available but some dogs can have an allergic reaction to this.We decide on a case by case basis when to use it

*Bites to the head and neck area are more dangerous than limb bites.

*Finally, there is some evidence that in rare cases head bites can cause behavioural changes in dogs possibly due to venom effects on the brain.

*Cats are less likely to encounter snakes as they’re less inquisitive, but due to the venom to weight ratio, bites to a cat should be considered even more serious.

As always if you suspect your dog has been bitten, treat it as an emergency and contact us immediately. Do not attempt to apply a tourniquet or to try and suck out the venom. Well-intentioned first aid attempts can make matters worse.

If you’re after more information on the Adder, this BBC article makes for interesting reading.