Elvis lives! Dog recovering after paralyzing coral snake bite

SAN ANTONIO – A 7-year-old Cairn terrier named Elvis is back from the brink of death after being treated for a coral snake bite at BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital on Broadway.

Elvis (photo courtesy of Steve Lara)

According to Elvis’ owner, Steve Lara, the pup was playing in the backyard with the family’s other dog, a Yorkshire terrier named Bogart, on Saturday. Elvis had blood on his mouth when he came inside, but Lara initially didn’t think much about it.

“They had been messing around, and I figured they had just gotten into something,” he said.

But within a half hour, Elvis began to take a turn for the worse. He became increasingly lethargic and he started vomiting. After finding the dead coral snake in the backyard, the couple rushed Elvis to the emergency veterinarian.

By the time they arrived at BluePearl, formerly known as Emergency Pet Center, Elvis wasn’t capable of breathing on his own. Emergency clinicians immediately hooked him up to a mechanical ventilator.

“The venom of coral snakes contains a neurotoxin that targets the respiratory muscles,” said Dr. Tracy Gati, a BluePearl senior emergency veterinarian who has been overseeing Elvis’ care. “That’s what makes the snake so dangerous.”

Elvis on the ventilator at BluePearl (photo courtesy of Steve Lara).

With careful attention from veterinarians and technicians, Elvis began showing signs of improvement as the poison worked its way out of his body. After 24 hours, he was able to be taken off the ventilator.

“He’s been eating and he has started to lift his head,” Dr. Gati said. “He’s also getting movement back in his limbs.”

Every four hours, doctors and technicians perform physical therapy with Elvis, doing passive range of motion exercises with his limbs and using a sling to help him stand. Dr. Gati said she’s optimistic that Elvis will make a full recovery.

Elvis and his “brother” Bogart. (photo courtesy of Steve Lara)

“The biggest problem now is that he has some ulcers on his corneas because he wasn’t able to blink his eyes,” she said. “But we’re treating those with medication and they’re expected to heal.”

Coral snake bites aren’t very common, Dr. Gati said. In fact, this is the first case she’s treated. The colorful banded snake tends to be reclusive but will attack if threatened.

Lara described Elvis as a rambunctious pup who loves to roughhouse with anyone who will play with him.

“He’s Mr. Tough Guy,” he said. “He’ll take on any dog or any person – we call him 20 pounds of fury.”

Lara said he and his wife are incredibly relieved that Elvis is on the mend.

“The team did a fantastic job of setting him up on the ventilator and then stayed right by his side,” Lara said. “It was pretty scary, but thankfully it all worked out.”