Dog Stung by Scorpion? Our Vet Explains What To Do
Scorpions are found throughout the United States. Luckily, of all the species—and there are more than 70—only one is considered venomous. Scorpion stings are not uncommon in dogs. Any pet parent knows that dogs love to explore little creatures running along the ground! Scorpion stings should always be treated as an emergency, although thankfully serious complications are rare.
Are Scorpion Stings Harmful to Dogs?
All scorpions have venom in their sting. However, the concentration of venom and the amount they release varies between species. Thankfully, most species either have weak venom or release only very small amounts. This means that most scorpion stings are comparable to a nasty insect bite or sting, such as a bee sting. Dogs can be allergic to scorpion stings, which causes more serious symptoms.
There is one particularly venomous scorpion found in the US—the Arizona Bark Scorpion—found in the Southwest US; namely Arizona, Western New Mexico, the Sonora Desert, Southern Utah, Southern Nevada, Southern California, and less commonly, the Colorado River. A sting from these scorpions will be more severe, and can even be lethal. Arizona Bark Scorpions are light brown and around 7-8c m long. They are nocturnal and so are more active at night. They like hot, dry weather and are more commonly seen in summer.
How Do I Know If My Dog Got Stung By Scorpions?
Are you wondering what the signs of a scorpion sting are? Well, the symptoms will vary depending on the species of scorpion, where the sting occurred, and your dog’s individual reaction. Most scorpion stings present in a similar way to insect bites, although they do tend to be particularly painful! Your dog may whimper or howl, hold their paw up or paw at their face. The site of the sting will be red, sometimes raised, and painful. You may be able to see the scorpion sting, or it may have fallen out. Bites around the mouth or nose tend to be more serious.
- Dilated pupils
- Watery eyes
- Abnormal heart rate
- Abnormal blood pressure
- Wobbly gait
- Trouble breathing
What To Do if a Scorpion Stings Dogs?
Don’t panic, since a lot of the time scorpion stings are similar to a nasty insect bite or sting. However, because of the potential for more serious symptoms, you should always treat a dog scorpion bite as an emergency. It is better to assume it’s a venomous scorpion and err on the side of caution. Do not ‘wait and see’ if any symptoms develop, since by this time it may be too late.
- Remove your dog (and yourself) from danger.
- Call your veterinarian. If you live close by, they will likely tell you to head straight in. If you are further away, they may ask you to give some antihistamine to your dog. Never do this without instruction from your veterinarian, since some antihistamines are dangerous to dogs. Your veterinarian may also prefer to give injectable medicine if you are close enough because it works quicker. They may not be able to do this if you have already given your dog an antihistamine at home.
- Hold ice on the area, on the way to the veterinary clinic, to help prevent severe swelling. Only do this if the ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) is easily accessible, do not waste time on this.
- Prevent your dog from licking the area if possible.
Always have your veterinary clinic’s phone number to hand. Make sure you know which emergency clinic you should be using for out of hours too (sometimes this will be a different branch or clinic to the one you are used to using).
What is the Treatment for a Scorpion Sting in Dogs?
This depends on the severity of the sting. Your veterinarian will remove the stinger, if still present. In mild cases, your veterinarian may give antihistamine via injection, anti-inflammatory pain relief, and then monitor your dog for more serious signs. In mild cases, dogs normally recover within 24 hours.
In more severe cases, such as stings around the head, or stings from an Arizona Bark scorpion, your dog may need to be hospitalized for a fluid drip. Unfortunately, treatment is ‘symptomatic’- it’s simply aimed at fixing the symptoms your dog is displaying. This could mean your vet gives medication to control blood pressure, control heart rate, or relax the muscles. There is an ante venom available, but its use is controversial because there are a high number of allergic reactions to it.
Can a Scorpions Kill Dogs?
Sadly, the short answer is yes. Luckily, however, the majority of scorpions in the US aren’t deadly. They can still pack a mean punch though! All scorpion stings will cause pain and some degree of damage to the tissues. All scorpion stings need immediate veterinary attention.
How Can I Prevent My Dog from Being Stung by a Scorpion?
Prevention is always better than cure, but preventing a scorpion encounter is difficult. There are a few things you can do to decrease the chances of your canine friend being stung.
Scorpions will usually flee where they can. They often only attack if they feel threatened. They like to find dark, damp places to hide—always check your shoes!
If you know you live in an area heavily populated with scorpions, try to stop your dog from digging in your yard (easier said than done, I know!). During rainy seasons especially, scorpions may try to seek shelter inside. Seal any cracks around windows or doors to prevent scorpions from entering your home, they can fit through remarkably small crevices!
Conclusion: Scorpion Stings in Dogs
Thankfully, most scorpion stings in the US, although painful, will not cause any serious complications. However, due to the possibility of a venomous scorpion sting and the potential for allergic reactions, all stings must be taken seriously.
Scorpion stings can be fatal, although thankfully this is rare in the US. Time is crucial, so act fast if you know your dog has been stung. Similarly, if your dog is showing symptoms of a painful sting but you aren’t sure what caused it, err on the side of caution and call your veterinarian right away.
Featured image credit: MRS.Siwporn, Shutterstock