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Venomous vs. Poisonous Reptiles: What are the Differences?

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Many people are not sure what the difference is between venomous and poisonous reptiles and other animals. This article will explain that difference, as well as talk about some examples of both types. Keep reading to find out more!

What is the Meaning of Venomous?

The definition of venomous is rather straight forward. It means that the reptile has a natural defense mechanism. This makes them dangerous to humans and other predators.

Venom in particular is a toxin that can be injected into other organisms. The venom is created by the reptile’s saliva or from modified salivary gland cells and glands in their mouth. This means they need to bite you in order for it to enter your bloodstream.

Venom’s Effects

Venom is also just a general name as there are many different variations. Different venoms cause a variety of different health problems from minor to extremely severe depending on both he type of venom and the amount that was injected.

Some minor effects might be:

  • Pain at the site of injection
  • Redness and swelling around the wound
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea

These can go away on their own but may require medical treatment. And, different people may have different reactions to the same venom due to their personal biochemistry.

Different venoms can also cause much more extreme health problems. Some of the more sever effects include:

  • Intense pain
  • Numbness or tingling in hands, feet, lips, mouth and genitals due to nerve damage
  • Organ failure
  • Death

Many venoms can do serious harm quickly, so it’s important to take a bite seriously.

They are actually four main types of venom. These are hemotoxic, neurotoxic, cytotoxic and myotoxic.

Hemotoxic venom has toxins that affect the circulatory system by preventing blood from clotting.

Neurotoxic venom blocks nerve impulses, causing paralysis and respiratory failure.

Cytotoxic venom destroys cells in a variety of ways.

Myotoxins stop muscle contraction and can lead to cardiac arrest.

Examples of Venomous Reptiles

An example of a venomous snake would be the black mamba or king cobra. But, snakes are not the only venous reptiles.

Another example of a venomous reptile is the Heloderma suspectum commonly called the Gila monster.

gila monster

If you are bitten by a reptile, in particular a snake, it’s always better the er of the side of caution and get checked out by a medical professional. Even if you believe that the reptile is non-venomous it’s extremely easy to make mistakes and misidentify the culprit. Plus, your reaction to a venomous bite may differ or be more severe than the average reaction.

And, if you are the unfortunate victim of a rather dangerous bite, the faster you can get anti-venom treatment the more effective it will be.

This goes for bites from all venomous creatures and not just reptiles. There are plenty of other animals like spiders and scorpions that can inject dangerous venom into other organisms including humans.

What Is the Meaning of Poisonous?

As for poisonous animals and reptiles, this just refers to any animal which can produce toxic substances as part of its normal bodily function. They usually have a warning system to let people know they are poisonous, such as bright and contrasting colors.

Poisons from reptiles are not injected into the victim’s bloodstream via fangs. Instead, the victim needs to either ingest the toxin or some instances simply come into direct contact with their skin. For example, simply touching a golden poison frog can be a deadly encounter due to the amount and potency of the poison this small creature secretes. 

Poison’s Effects

Poisons are toxic substances that can cause a variety of problems that are incredibly similar those caused by venom. Some mild symptoms include:

  • Burning sensations in mouth and stomach or skin near the point of contact
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Severe cases have been known to lead to severe health complications including organ failure or even death. One example is the before mentioned golden poison frog which if touched causes immediate paralysis followed by heart attack.

Examples of Poisonous Reptiles

Some examples of poisonous reptiles are poison dart frogs, cane toads and the Iberian ribbed newt.

In fact, many toads produce at least some level of toxin, which is why households with dogs should think carefully about keeping a toad as a pet. A curious dog may accidentally poison itself. This also is a serious problem for households that have dogs that spend long times outside in areas that are overrun by the invasive cane toad mentioned above.

One interesting note about the poison dart frog mentioned above is that the indigenous population of Central and South America have been known to actually harvest the poison from the frog in order to coat blow darts. Additionally, captive raised dart frogs that have different diets than those in their native habitats do not secrete toxins, though they still retain the biology to do so.

Are Venomous and Poisonous Reptiles Safe to Keep as Pets?

Generally speaking it is not advised that people keep venomous creatures or reptiles in their home as a pet. The dangers far outweigh the benefits, which is why almost all snake pets are non-venomous.

Some toads may be OK such as American toads and red-bellied toads as long as you don’t also keep mammals pets and take care to wash your hands well before and after handling.

Either way both venom and poison carry unnecessary risk as there are plenty of non-toxic reptiles that make excellent pets should you decide to jump into the world of reptile pet ownership.

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