17 Snakes with Paralyzing Venom

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: July 20, 2022
Image Credit samray/Shutterstock.com
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Venomous snakes have venom made of complex and toxic proteins, enzymes, amines, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleosides. They insert their venom into their prey using their fangs. Snakes with longer fangs can insert their venom deeper into their prey while some with shorter fangs must chew on their prey to get their venom in.

Snakes have different types of venom that act and attack the body in different ways. One major type of venom acts by attacking the nervous system and paralyzing the body. This article takes a look at 17 snakes with paralyzing venom.

Types of Snake Venom

There are 4 main types of snake venom: neurotoxic, proteolytic, hemotoxic, and cytotoxic. Snakes can have venom made of more than one toxin or venom type.

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Neurotoxic Venom

Mozambique spitting cobra is so named because it projects venom from its fangs into its attacker's eyes, which can cause vision problems or blindness.
Cobras neurotoxic venom attacks the victim’s nervous system and leads to paralysis.

Cormac Price/Shutterstock.com

Neurotoxic venom is one of the fastest venom to act. It works by attacking the nervous system and stopping the transmission of signals from the nerves to the muscles. This simply means that your brain will not be able to send and execute commands to your muscles. 

In simple terms, this leads to paralysis. Neurotoxic venom begins working from the head and makes its way down to the rest of the body. It can slowly affect the diaphragm muscles which control breathing. This will render the victim unable to breathe.

Proteolytic Venom

Proteolytic venom works by attacking the victim’s tissue. It contains proteolytic enzymes which are made up of bacteria, fungi, as well as plants and animals. Proteolytic enzymes naturally break down protein in the body. The presence of these enzymes leads to damage to tissues. Snakes with this venom usually use it to aid digestion and not necessarily to kill or weaken.

Hemotoxic Venom

Hemotoxic venom attacks the circulatory system and causes respiratory problems. Victims may find breathing impossible. Hemotoxic venom also attacks the muscle tissue. This can result in hemorrhaging; the rupturing of blood vessels which leads to bleeding. It also causes swelling and necrosis – the death of cells in the affected areas. Hemotoxic venom can also affect (hinder or cause) blood clotting.

Cytotoxic Venom

Cytotoxic venom works by destroying the affected tissue’s cell membrane which will lead to the entire destruction of the tissue.

17 Snakes with Neurotoxic or Paralyzing Venom

Snakes in the Elapidae snake family have venom that are mostly made of neurotoxins. However, some other snakes have minor amounts of neurotoxins that also result in paralysis.

Elapidae (cobras, coral snakes, mambas, kraits, sea snakes), Viperidae (vipers, rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, adders), Colubridae (mangrove snakes, vine snakes, boomslangs, tree snakes, twig snakes), and Atractaspidae(stiletto snakes, mole vipers) are snakes with neurotoxic or paralyzing venom.

Elapidae Family

Cobras, coral snakes, mambas, kraits, and sea snakes are Elapidaes with primarily neurotoxic venom that can lead to paralysis.

Cobras

An equatorial spitting cobra with its head raised and hood open
Equatorial spitting cobras are solid black or yellow with some spotting along hood.

Reptilian/Shutterstock.com

Cobras venom are primarily neurotoxic. Some species of cobras spit their venom into the eyes of their victims while some bite. Their bites often result in paralysis depending on how much was injected.

Coral snakes

The eastern coral snake has a black snout followed by a band of yellow, then black, then yellow or white, then red, then yellow then black all the way down to the tail.
The snake species with the second-strongest venom is the coral snake.

iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

Coral snakes have the second-strongest venom of all snake species. Their venom is primarily neurotoxic and causes paralysis of the body.

Mambas

Western green mamba in a tree
The venom of a mamba is neurotoxic.

PRILL/Shutterstock.com

Mambas have complex venom. Their venom contains neurotoxic compounds including dendrotoxins, muscarinic toxins, and fasciculins. Their venom is known to be deadly.

Kraits

A banded krait on sand
Banded kraits can reach 7 feet long.

RealityImages/Shutterstock.com

According to an article published in the 2016 Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases, kraits are a leading cause of snakebite mortality in South Asia. Their venom contains presynaptic neurotoxins.

Sea snakes

A yellow-bellied sea snake curled up on the beach displaying its paddle-like tail
Yellow-bellied sea snakes have paddle-shaped tails that they use as a rudder.

Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

Sea snakes have deadly venom that contains neurotoxins and myotoxins which result in paralysis, swelling in various body parts such as the tongue and joints, blurry vision, and many others.

Viperidae Family

Rattlesnakes, copperhead, cottonmouths, and adders are Viperidae snakes with paralyzing venom. Their venom is primarily hemotoxic with significant quantities of neurotoxins.

Vipers

Red Viper
Although some vipers have significant amount of venom that can cause paralysis, most of them have hemotoxic venom.

lisdiyanto suhardjo/Shutterstock.com

Most vipers have hemotoxic venom but some of them have significant amounts of venom that cause paralysis. Vipers are some of the deadliest snakes.

Rattlesnakes

Many rattlesnakes have neurotoxins and hemotoxins in their venom.

Tom Reichner/Shutterstock.com

Rattlesnakes are known for their incredibly toxic venom. Some species have venom which is strong enough to kill multiple people. Many rattlesnakes have neurotoxins and hemotoxins in their venom.

Copperheads

The Copperhead’s scales are keeled, and their eyes have vertical pupils that make them resemble cat’s eyes.
The copperhead’s scales are keeled, and their eyes have vertical pupils that make them resemble cat’s eyes.

Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

Copperheads venom mostly contains hemotoxins that damage tissues temporarily. However, they also contain significant amounts of neurotoxins that can cause paralysis, depending on how much is injected. Luckily, most copperhead bites do not result in deaths.

Cottonmouths

A northern cottonmouth sunning on a sandy path near the saltwater marsh on the Tolomato River.

Linda Burek/Shutterstock.com

Cottonmouth snakes venom contains hemotoxins that break down blood cells and stop blood from clotting. Their venom also contains neurotoxins. A cottonmouth’s maximum venom yield is 237 mg, which is strong enough to kill two humans.

Adders

Night Adder
Night adders have hemotoxic venom.

NickEvansKZN/Shutterstock.com

Adders have venom that is primarily hemotoxic. However, it contains enough neurotoxins, and this can result in paralysis. These snakes hardly bite but when they do, it is often deadly.

Colubridae Family

Mangrove snakes, vine snakes, boomslangs, tree snakes, and twigs snakes are Colubridae snakes with traces of neurotoxins in their venom.

Mangrove snakes

Although mangrove snakes have venom made primarily of denmotoxins, they contain some amount of neurotoxin.

YapAhock/Shutterstock.com

Mangrove snakes have venom made primarily of denmotoxins. However, they contain some quantities of neurotoxins. These snakes’ bites cannot result in paralysis because their fangs are rear-ended and injecting enough venom is very hard. However, if they were able to, their bites would likely lead to paralysis.

Vine snakes

A front view of an Asian vine snake in a tree
Asian vine snakes often have dark green and blue lines on their scales.

Kurit afshen/Shutterstock.com

Vine snakes have venom that contains large amounts of hemotoxins and small amounts of neurotoxins. Some species of vine snakes are harmless but others aren’t. There is no antivenom for vine snakes.

Boomslangs

boomslang slithering on branch
Male boomslangs have a brown tint to their green bodies with black or blue outlines.

iStock.com/FroeMic

Boomslangs are highly venomous and dangerous snakes. Their venom contains high levels of hemotoxins but also contains neurotoxins that can cause paralysis.

Tree snakes

The venom of brown tree snakes causes paralysis in chickens.

Hutch Photographics/Shutterstock.com

Some tree snakes have venom with mild traces of neurotoxins. They are not potent to humans but are known to result in paralysis. A study showed that the venom of brown tree snakes causes paralysis in chickens.

Twig snake

Twig snakes are characterized by thin, elongated bodies, with extremely long tails and a sharply triangular-shaped head.
Twig snakes are characterized by thin, elongated bodies, with extremely long tails and a sharply triangular-shaped head.

Willem Van Zyl/Shutterstock.com

Twig snakes are highly venomous snakes with hemotoxic venom. Their venom also contains neurotoxins which may lead to paralysis.

Atractaspidae Family

Stiletto snakes and mole vipers are from the Atractaspidae Family. Due to the traces of neurotoxins in their venom, they are known to cause paralysis.

Stiletto snakes

The venomous Bibron's Stiletto Snake. The entire body of the snake features a range of dark brown to black colors.
The venomous Bibron’s Stiletto Snake.

NickEvansKZN/Shutterstock.com

Stiletto snakes have venom that contains potent levels of cytotoxins as well as noticeable traces of neurotoxins that can cause paralysis.

Mole vipers

Mole vipers venom are primarily hemotoxic and result in necrosis. However, they also contain neurotoxins that result in paralysis.

What To Do If You Get Bitten By A Snake

Most reported snakebite deaths occur because there was a delay in seeking medical help. If you are bitten by a snake, seek medical help immediately. Here are some of the major don’ts if you get bitten by a snake.

  • Do not delay in seeking medical attention.
  • Do not attempt to suck out the venom. You could transmit it to your mouth and endanger yourself even more.
  • Do not chop off the bitten part. Snake bites can be treated with anti-venom. Cutting off a part of your body will cause you to lose blood among a host of other problems that could kill you faster than the bite.
  • Do not move around. If venom has been injected into you, moving around will only help it circulate faster. Sit still and wait for professional help.

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green snake in a tree
Green snakes
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