A CHESHIRE vet is warning dog owners of the risks of snake bites in the warm weather after a spaniel was left with serious injuries on a North Wales beach.

Alison and Mark Wallace were on holiday when Osker, their five-year-old field spaniel, is believed to have been bitten by an adder while investigating a recently strimmed area of grassland close to some sand dunes.

Although he continued to play and fetch his ball normally, he became lethargic when they returned home and later developed soreness and pain on his left side.

In this time, the snake’s toxic venom caused the skin on Osker’s abdomen to blacken, die and peel off while causing severe damage to his liver. The canine spent almost two weeks fighting for his life at Willows Veterinary Hospital – based in Northwich.

The couple sought veterinary advice on holiday, and it was suspected Osker had pulled a muscle but his condition gradually deteriorated and they were forced to return to their home near Delamere Forest early.

Chester and District Standard:

From left; Alison Wallace with Osker and Mairead Currie, a vet at Willows Veterinary Hospital in Northwich

Alison said: “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.”

“Quite a number of people who are dog owners have no idea this can happen. Of course, we don’t want to scare people but if there’s any chance a dog has been bitten you need to know what to do quickly because the symptoms might not show for one to three hours.”

Mrs Wallace explained that Osker was on a number of intravenous medicines and did not know if he could have come through it by himself.

She added: “We were extremely distressed. It was a worrying time but all we could think was that he was in the best place possible.

Alison and Mark took Osker to their local vets, The Firs Veterinary Surgery, in Kelsall, owned by the Willows Veterinary Group, where he was immediately referred to the group’s main hospital in Hartford.

Veterinary surgeon Mairead Currie, 24, said she had ‘not seen a case as severe as Osker’, believing he had sustained multiple bites.

She added that vets would have been very concerned for his health if he had not received proper care to fight the poison and infection in the days following the bite.

Chester and District Standard:

The adder bite caused the skin on Osker’s abdomen to blacken, die and peel off while causing severe damage to his liver.

Ms Currie said: “Obviously, these things are very difficult to predict. It is more about getting the message out there that it is a risk and to follow the necessary advice.

“Snakes are more common in some places than others, and tall grassland is a particular risk. It’s definitely something to bear in mind if you have a wandering dog.”

After two operations, and repeatedly cleaning his wounds, Osker is back pottering around his garden at home.

Alison said: “We are just so grateful to everybody. They were so good at communicating with us and everyone was so friendly and lovely. They made difficult time bearable.”

Adders have recently come out of their winter hibernation and can bite in self-defence if cornered or disturbed by an inquisitive pet.

The species is the only venomous snake native to the UK and will only attack if threatened. Adders live in a variety of habitats including sand dunes, open countryside, meadows and moorland.

Symptoms of an adder bite include painful swelling, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Ms Currie added that the majority of bitten dogs make a full recovery with appropriate treatment.

She said: “Osker was really poorly when he came to us and it is only through extensive supportive liver medications, broad spectrum antibiotics and fluid therapy that he came through. His wounds were reassessed daily and the situation was very dynamic but with adequate pain relief we managed to keep him comfortable.”

“The message is, if you notice anything unusual, take them to a vet immediately. It’s better to err on the side of caution,” said Mairead.