By Leah Fox
A dog spent two weeks fighting for his life after being bitten multiple times by an adder while sniffing out sand dunes on holiday.
Shocked owners Alison and Mark Wallace were left distraught after five-year-old spaniel Osker was bitten by the snake in grassland close to the beach during a recent trip to North Wales.
While they allege local vets initially told them their beloved pooch had just pulled a muscle, his condition deteriorated and they rushed home from the trip early as he became lethargic and developed pain in his left side.
By the time vets discovered Osker had actually been attacked by an adder, the highly toxic venom had caused the skin on his stomach and groin to blacken, die and peel off – revealed in shocking images – and the pooch was facing severe liver damage.
Luckily, after two weeks battling for survival at Willows Veterinary Hospital in Hartford, Cheshire the playful pup has made a full recovery.
Alison, from Delamere Forest, Cheshire, said: “Quite a number of dog owners have no idea this can happen.
“Of course we don’t want to scare people, but if there’s any chance your dog has been bitten you need to know what to do quickly, because the symptoms might not show for one to three hours.
“Osker remained in veterinary care for almost two weeks.
“We were told we were not out of the woods, even with his liver enzyme levels started to come down. It really was touch and go.
“He was on a number of intravenous medicines – I don’t know if he could’ve come through it by himself.
“We were extremely distressed. It was a worrying time but all we could think was that he was in the best place possible.”
Adders – the only venomous snake native to the UK – have recently come out of their winter hibernation and can bite in self-defence if threatened when they are disturbed by an inquisitive pet.
Snake bites in dogs are uncommon in the UK but are most likely to happen between 3pm and 4pm, when adders are most active, and in areas of tall heather close to beaches.
Symptoms of an adder bite include painful swelling, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Willows Veterinary Hospital veterinary surgeon Mairead Currie, 24, revealed Osker was the most severe adder bite case she had ever seen.
Staff treated his extensive bruising and swelling while fighting the poison and infection before carrying out two operations to move healthy skin to the centre of the wound and close it up.
Mairead said: “Osker was really, really poorly when he came to us.
“We’ve not seen a case as severe as this before and we believe Osker had multiple bites – the situation was very dymanic.
“We took his bloods and his liver enzymes were through the roof – indicating he was battling toxic poisoning.
“His tummy had started to swell and ooze where the skin was dying.
“But he was fantastic – throughout it all he was the bravest trooper.
“It is only through extensive supportive liver medications, broad spectrum antibiotics and fluid therapy that he came through.
“During most of the dressing changes he would just lie there for us, he was so good.
“Everyone has absolutely fallen in love with him. He’s such a little character.”
Pet medics discovered it was best not to operate multiple times as Osker’s dead skin was actually acting as a bandage for the painful wound – instead just carrying out the two main operations.
The pooch has now been discharged from veterinary care and is recovering from his ordeal at home with his liver values almost back to normal.
Owner Alison added: “We’re just trying to keep him calm at the moment which is tricky as he does love to chase Mabel, our cat.
“She was so pleased to see him when he came back. She kept sleeping in his bed while he was away.
“He’s back pottering around the garden and going out for little walks. He’s seems much better.”
Mairead, who trained at the University of Edinburgh, added: “Obviously, these things are very difficult to predict, but it’s definitely something to bear in mind if you have a wandering dog.
“What made it difficult for Osker was that he only presented with a very non-specific pain down one side.
“The message is, if you notice anything unusual, take them to a vet immediately. It’s better to err on the side of caution.”