Snake bite: coral snakes

Clin Tech Small Anim Pract. 2006 Nov;21(4):183-6. doi: 10.1053/j.ctsap.2006.10.005.


North American coral snakes are distinctively colored beginning with a black snout and an alternating pattern of black, yellow, and red. They have fixed front fangs and a poorly developed system for venom delivery, requiring a chewing action to inject the venom. The severity of a coral snake bite is related to the volume of venom injected and the size of the victim. The length of the snake correlates positively with the snakes venom yield. Coral snake venom is primarily neurotoxic with little local tissue reaction or pain at the bite site. The net effect of the neurotoxins is a curare like syndrome. In canine victims there have been reports of marked hemolysis with severe anemia and hemoglobinuria. The onset of clinical signs may be delayed for as much as 10 to 18 hours. The victim begins to have alterations in mental status and develops generalized weakness and muscle fasciculations. Progression to paralysis of the limbs and respiratory muscles then follows. The best flied response to coral snake envenomation is rapid transport to a veterinary medical facility capable of 24 hour critical care and assisted ventilation. First aid treatment advocated in Australia for Elapid bites is the immediate use of a compression bandage. The victim should be hospitalized for a minimum of 48 hours for continuous monitoring. The only definitive treatment for coral snake envenomation is the administration of antivenin (M. fulvius). Once clinical signs of coral snake envenomation become manifest they progress with alarming rapidity and are difficult to reverse. If antivenin is not available or if its administration is delayed, supportive care includes respiratory support. Assisted mechanical ventilation can be used but may have to be employed for up to 48 to 72 hours.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antivenins / therapeutic use*
  • Cat Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cat Diseases / etiology
  • Cat Diseases / pathology
  • Cats
  • Dog Diseases / drug therapy
  • Dog Diseases / etiology
  • Dog Diseases / pathology
  • Dogs
  • Elapid Venoms / poisoning*
  • Elapidae*
  • Snake Bites / complications
  • Snake Bites / drug therapy
  • Snake Bites / pathology
  • Snake Bites / veterinary*
  • Species Specificity


  • Antivenins
  • Elapid Venoms