Coral Snake Bite Poisoning in Dogs

Alex German
Feb 23, 2010
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Coral Snake Venom Toxicosis in Dogs

There are two clinically important subspecies of coral snake in North America: the eastern coral snake, Micrurus fulvius fulvius, in North Carolina, southern Florida, and west of the Mississippi River; and the Texas coral snake, M. fulvius tenere, found west of Mississippi, in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

The coral snake is from the Elapidae family of venomous snakes. Elapids have fixed front fangs that are used to inject venom into their victims. The coral snake is tri-colored and can be recognized by the bands of red, yellow, and black that fully encircle the body. The coral snake can be distinguished from the similar colored but harmless tri-colored kingsnake by the arrangement of the bands: if the yellow and red color bands touch, then it is the venomous coral snake; if the red and black color bands touch, it is the non-venomous kingsnake (this rule only applies to North American coral snakes – coral snakes in other parts of the world have different patterns). In addition, the coral snake has a relatively small head, with a black snout, and round pupils.

Bites are relatively uncommon because of the snake's reclusive and non-aggressive behavior and nocturnal habits. When injuries do occur, they often occur on the lip because an animal has gotten too close. Onset of clinical signs may be delayed several hours (up to 18 hours) after your pet was bitten. Victims develop paralysis, including paralysis of the breathing muscles. The primary cause of death is respiratory collapse.

Symptoms and Types

  • Paralysis
  • Salivation/drooling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Altered voice production (inability to bark)
  • Reduced spinal reflexes
  • Diarrhea
  • Convulsions
  • Shock


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, recent activities, and onset of symptoms. Your veterinarian will need to rule out several other explanations for the symptoms before arriving at a diagnosis.

If you are sure that your dog has been bitten by a coral snake, your veterinarian will look for the fang marks so that the bite can be treated immediately and so that antivenom drugs can be given.

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