Elapid envenomation is a concern for dog owners living in regions where coral snakes are found, but elapid bites are rare.
Elapid snake bites are an emergency, as their venom contains toxins that prevent respiratory muscles from contracting. Dogs with suspected venomous snake bites need immediate medical attention.
The likelihood of occurrence is relative to the geographic range of elapid snake species. This class of snakebite is much less commonly reported than pit viper (rattlesnake, or crotalid) envenomation.
Elapid envenomation results when a dog is bitten by a snake from the elapid family. The most common species of elapid snakes in the US and Australia are:
Elapids have short fangs and deliver neurotoxic venom.
Elapid snakebites typically have minimal pain and swelling at the bite location.
Dogs with suspected venomous snake bites require immediate veterinary attention.
If the snake bite is witnessed, the diagnosis is self-evident. Identification of the species of snake involved may help expedite appropriate treatment.
As with any penetrating wound, the veterinarian will first shave and clean the area of the snake bite thoroughly. Elapid snake bites often require:
Coral snake (elapid) antivenin is no longer manufactured in the United States, making it unavailable to most practitioners in North America. Elapid antivenin is widely available in Australia.
Symptoms of elapid envenomation may take up to 48 hours to fully develop, so inpatient monitoring is advised until it is evident the dog’s condition is not deteriorating.
The outcome of a snake bite depends on the species of snake, location of the bite, quantity of venom delivered, size of the dog, and how rapidly treatment was implemented. Specific identification of the biting snake may improve prognosis, as an appropriate antivenom can be selected, where available.
Prognosis for elapid envenomation in dogs is fair to good with rapid treatment. Dogs who develop more serious complications like aspiration pneumonia have a worse prognosis. Muscle tissue damage after envenomation may take months to resolve in some cases.
Snakebite envenomation is not contagious. Snakebite envenomation is prevented by avoiding contact with poisonous snakes.
Globally uncommon, but likelihood of occurrence is relative to the geographic range of elapid snake species. Elapid envenomation is primarily reported in Australia and the southern United States.