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before and after shot of ralf the labrador

Dog’s head swells to ‘twice its usual size’ after adder bite reading-time-icon 2 min read

Ralf the 4-year-old yellow Labrador was rushed to Acorn Veterinary Surgery in Hove after being bitten by an adder while out walking with his owner.

Ralf was left with two puncture-marks on his muzzle, just a few centimetres from his nose, and was kept in practice overnight for supervision.

When he returned home the following evening, Ralf’s muzzle had swollen so much that his owner, Will Slade, could barely recognise him.

close-up of labrador's swollen head after adder bite

The incident occurred as Ralf and Will made their way to Devil’s Dyke, a nearby National Trust attraction that the pair visit regularly. Ralf had been walking a few metres ahead like usual when suddenly, Will saw him jump.

‘He shot backwards, out of the blue,’ says Will. ‘All four paws were off the ground!’

Will, who’d never encountered an adder on the way to Devil’s Dyke before, recalls seeing ‘the last six inches’ of the snake before it disappeared under a nearby hedge.

Ralf became immediately subdued. ‘He wasn’t pulling on the lead like usual and he couldn’t jump into the back of the car. My main concern was to get him to the vets.’

ralf's snout with bite marks

They arrived at Acorn Veterinary Surgery in the early evening, where it was later decided that Ralf would need overnight supervision.

‘We had a very quiet night without Ralf,’ says Will, who owns two cats, as well as Ralf the loving, mischievous and playful Labrador who, he admits, handled the situation with great bravery.

another close-up of ralf the labrador's swollen head

‘When he got back, he’d undergone a lot of treatment for the pain. Apart from whining for attention, he was fine.’

Despite the pain and shock, Ralf made a full recovery within 4 days of visiting the practice.

‘They were great, as ever,’ Will says of Acorn Veterinary Surgery, who liaised with a nearby emergency care provider to make sure Ralf got the treatment he needed. ‘The staff were attentive, and kept me updated throughout the process. I never doubted that Ralf was in excellent hands!’

normal, happy ralf

Adders are the only poisonous snakes in the UK. They usually live in sand dunes or woodland areas, and enjoy sunbathing. Just like Ralf, most dogs who are bitten by adders make a full recovery within 5-7 days, but it’s still important to have their injuries checked out by your vet, who will also prescribe pain relief and medication.

‘If I’d been an SAS person,’ jokes Will, ‘I’d have sucked the venom out myself – but I’m not an SAS person.’

Looking for a vet in Hove or Hangleton, East Sussex? Acorn Veterinary Surgery are part of My Family Vets’ trusted network, providing exceptional care for pets and outstanding service for their owners