Although not all coral snake bites deliver venom, coral snake envenomation is serious, as it may result in respiratory paralysis. Emergency medical attention is always indicated if envenomation is suspected, or if a cat presents with symptoms.
It is important to seek proper veterinary treatment immediately. Home remedies such as ice, cold or warm packs, suction, or tourniquets may be more detrimental than beneficial to a cat’s health.
Coral snakes are reclusive. Incidences of coral snakebite are uncommon, and indoor cats are at the lowest risk of encountering a wild snake of any kind. Cats living outside the geographical areas where elapid snakes are present are not at risk.
The severity of symptoms varies depending on the amount of venom delivered, the size of the cat, the location of the bite, and the species of snake. Symptoms of elapid envenomation may be delayed for up to 48 hours. Receiving treatment prior to developing symptoms has the best prognosis.
A cat may limp or excessively groom a bite if it is painful. Careful observation of a cat’s behavior may make the bite wounds easier to locate.
Coral snakes live throughout the southeastern US, including North Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida. Other species of elapid snakes are found in Australia. Elapid snake species include:
Elapidae bites are often hard to find since they do not swell and are not always painful.
While antivenom is the most effective treatment, it is not widely available in the US. Treatment in these cases primarily focuses on supportive care, including:
With prompt intensive care, prognosis for a bitten cat is guarded to good, depending on the amount of venom delivered.
A cat recovering from coral snake toxicosis may be required to remain in-hospital for several days to ensure full recovery. Since the venom damages muscle receptors, full recovery with complete resolution of symptoms can take several months, as the body needs to reconstruct the damaged receptors.
Coral snake bites are prevented by enforcing an indoor lifestyle for pet cats. Alternatively, allowing outdoor access while on leash or in a contained area helps avoid wildlife encounters. This toxicosis is not contagious, although other animals and humans may also become envenomated if they encounter a coral snake.
Coral snake bites are uncommon in cats.