DOG OWNERS have been warned to watch out for venomous snakes which have been spotted in a national park.

The South Downs National Park heralded the return of adders but told pet owners to be wary of the reptiles.

A spokesman for the park said: “We’ve had reports of an increased number of adder sightings in the national park, which is excellent news.

“Although adders are usually shy, they are venomous and dogs should be kept on the lead on access land just to be on the safe side.”

The adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK.

A spokesman for The Wildlife Trusts said they could “be spotted basking in the sunshine in woodland glades and on heathlands”.

He added: “An adder bite is a very rare occurrence, and can be painful, but is almost never fatal.”

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But the bites can have a more serious effect on dogs.

Dave Leicester, head of clinical intelligence at Vets Now, said: “Adder bites are more frequent in the spring when the snakes are just out of hibernation. Adders will only bite a dog in self-defence. Generally, bites occur when a snake is stepped on or disturbed.

“Most adder bites occur on a dog’s legs or face and typically result in a dark, painful swelling. Owners may also be able to see two small puncture wounds in the centre of the swelling.

“The swelling can become severe and may result in breathing difficulties, as a consequence of an allergic reaction to the toxin, particularly if the dog has been bitten around the head and neck.

“Eventually, if left untreated, dogs may collapse, have blood clotting problems, tremors or convulsions. That’s why it’s vitally important owners rush them to a vet as early as possible.”

This is not the only wildlife warning issued this week. Chichester District Council has asked residents to watch out for brown-tail moth caterpillars, which have been seen in the area.

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The Butterfly Conservation charity has advice available for anyone who has come into contact with one of the caterpillars.

A spokesman said: “Each caterpillar bears a mass of tiny barbed hairs. The hairs get under our skin, literally, causing a nettle-like rash with it comes an irresistible urge to scratch.

"If you get the rash, which is often on the hands, arms and neck, apply antihistamine cream or calamine lotion.Symptoms should subside after a few hours, but seek medical help if you are unsure, or the reaction doesn’t lessen.”