What is Coral Snake Bite Poisoning?
The coral snake is of the Elapidae family. The bite is extremely toxic in that the venom paralyzes the respiratory center of a canine in a gradual and deadly manner. The effects will take place over a period of about 18 hours, and can last as long as a week to 10 days. The snake bite can cause life-threatening conditions for your pet; even if you are not certain that the snake that your dog has come into contact with is poisonous or not, seeing a veterinarian is crucial. A snake bite should be treated as an emergency situation. If possible, take a photo of the snake with your cellular phone, to show the veterinary team upon arrival at the clinic.
When a canine is bitten by a snake and poison enters the wound, it is known as envenomation. The coral snake, known by its distinct coloring of alternating black, yellow and red bands on the body along with a black snout, is the most toxic snake found in the United States when measured in per milligram of dried weight.
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Symptoms of Coral Snake Bite Poisoning in Dogs
The envenomation of the coral snake is neurotoxic, meaning that the effects are primarily paralytic. Documentation shows that bites are not typically painful or known to cause swelling. The signs that will be seen when the poison takes effect are disturbing and can quickly escalate to life-threatening. Do not delay in taking your dog to the emergency clinic in the event of a snake bite as canines can be rendered virtually helpless in movement and breathing capabilities.
- Excess salivation (ptyalism)
- Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
- Loss of control of bodily movements (ataxia)
- Alteration of mental state
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in spinal reflexes
- Muscle twitches
- Shallow breathing
- Loss of sensation in all limbs
- Loss of vocal ability
At the final stages, there will be a paralysis of the limbs and respiratory muscles resulting in complete respiratory distress.
Causes of Coral Snake Bite Poisoning in Dogs
The bite of the coral snake has detrimental effects on the central nervous system, brain, blood vessels and muscles. Immediate veterinary care is paramount to the survival of your pet because the longer the treatment is delayed and the more time the venom has to work, the harder the effects are to reverse. Though this snake does not usually attack unless picked up or disturbed, the incidences of snake bite in dogs are many due to the curious nature of this furry family member.
Diagnosis of Coral Snake Bite Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect that your dog has been bitten by a coral snake, immediate transport to an emergency clinic is paramount to his health. You may not be able to see the bite location because the bite of the coral snake is small in size. Studies that have been done on snake bites of the Elapidae family have shown that although a bite mark may not be evident and symptoms are not apparent, once they begin, the state of your pet’s health will rapidly deteriorate to a debilitating point of being unable to breathe.
If you have the dead snake in your possession or a picture on your cell phone, this will be of great help to the diagnosing veterinarian. Because of the delay of onset of the clinical signs, and the fact that the snake bite may not be visible (it could be on the lips or tongue and are very small), your description of the event will be all the veterinarian has to go on.
Treatment of Coral Snake Bite Poisoning in Dogs
A victim of a coral snake bite needs to be hospitalized where there is 24-hour human monitoring of your dog. There is an antivenom for coral snake bites but is not always available. In addition, there have been cases documented where the antivenom was not effective enough to control the poison. Maximum benefits from antivenom will result if it is administered within 6 hours of the bite.
Ventilation support is always needed in the case of a coral snake bite. Monitoring is necessary in this case, especially as there can be complications like aspiration pneumonia, kidney damage, liver dysfunction, and irregular heartbeat. Depending on the severity of your canine companion’s condition, his hospitalization may last between a couple of days to a few weeks.
Recovery of Coral Snake Bite Poisoning in Dogs
The recovery of your dog will depend on several factors. His chances of full recovery are increased when the length of time between the bite and the treatment is at a minimum. In addition, the size of the snake could play a part. The longer the snake, the more venom your pet will receive in the event of a bite. The location of the bite and the size of your pet are also factors in the equation.
Recovery is indeed possible; when your pet returns home from the clinic, he will need rest and quiet. It may take weeks before he returns to normal. It should be noted that there are many times when the effects of the venom completely paralyze a canine, shutting down the respiratory system to a degree of no return.