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Sunny weather brings adders and risk to pets

Venomous adders are on the move again seeking warm spots to sun themselves, posing a threat to unwary pets.

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Adders will bite if they feel threatened. They do, however, try to avoid humans. Image: Juha Laaksonen / Yle

Recent warm weather has brought the country's population of common European adders out of their winter dens and into the sun. As they usually return to their nests at night, many of these snakes have been seen on the move of late.

"Because of the cold early spring, the adders are still using their winter nests," explains Britt-Marie Juup, Executive Director of the Turku Animal Welfare Association.

Juup is currently offering free transport of adders away from human habitations. So far six of the snakes have been captured and taken to more remote areas. Two managed to slip away before they could be picked up.

As nights begin to warm, the distances that adders roam seeking out sunny spots will decrease for the summer months. In the autumn, when nights begin to cool, they will again be on the move.

The emergency rooms of the Vettori veterinary hospital, which serves Turku and the Southwest Finland region, has seen dozens of dogs and cats this spring that have been bitten by adders, as they will strike if disturbed and feel threatened.

"Younger adders are not able to control the amount of venom they release. The older ones can regulate how much of this precious fluid they use to hunt their food, " Juup says.

Prompt treatment

According to Juup, dogs in particular are very susceptible to the effects of adder venom. Any dog bitten by an adder should always be immediately referred to a veterinarian.

"The toxin begins to circulate in the bloodstream and cause severe damage to the internal organs and also to the actual bite site. Treatment and care after being bitten can take weeks," Juup points out.

Juup further urges owners to avoid allowing their pets into spots where snakes may be sunning themselves, such as tall grass and piles of twigs or rocks.

"You should pay attention if something suddenly catches your dog's interest and check out what it is," Juup advises.

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