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Dog Stung by a Scorpion? Our Vet Explains What to Do

Dr. Maria Zayas

By Dr. Maria Zayas

Giant forest scorpion at the back of a french bulldog

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Dr. Maria Zayas

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Scorpion stings are never fun, but the good news is they are usually not very dangerous. While pain is a given, deadly scorpion stings are rare in the US, with only one species possessing “dangerous” venom.

Since many scorpion stings can be treated at home, this article will tell you what you need to know if your dog gets stung.

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All About Scorpions

Scorpions are in the arachnid family. Their front legs on each side have large pincers to hold onto prey, and they have a five-segmented tail with a stinger to envenomate prey.

Scorpion venom, just like snake venom, differs between species. In the US, all but one scorpion species are only capable of causing local pain and inflammation at sting sites for dogs unless an allergic reaction to the venom occurs.

The most dangerous scorpion species in the US is the Arizona Bark Scorpion (Centruroides exilicauda). Most stings from this scorpion are not deadly, but the difference between their venom and that of other scorpions in the US is that their venom can cause systemic signs, meaning beyond local pain and inflammation, cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), or neurological signs can occur. These signs can even be fatal in small, older, or debilitated dogs.

While scorpions aren’t aggressive animals, they are most likely to sting if touched or approached. Sometimes that’s due to an overly curious or prey driven dog, but they can also often be hiding in bedding, clothes, shoes, closets, and a dog may disturb one by accident. Stings usually occur on the face or feet, but due to those accidental interactions, a sting may technically occur anywhere on the body.

close up macro image of devil scorpion
Image Credit: Rob Hainer, Shutterstock

Signs of a Scorpion Sting

The average scorpion sting will look and behave a lot like a bug bite. You can expect your dog to have a raised red bump in the area, which may have a stinger still attached, and this spot may be warm and itchy.

Most dogs will cry out when stung and react painfully if the area is touched, so be careful assessing them. In severe cases, swelling may look more like a bee sting in which the whole area of the face or foot swells up, which may affect their breathing a bit. Limping or holding up a stung limb is common, as is licking the sting site.

A dog having an allergic reaction to a sting will likely rapidly develop hives, extreme facial swelling, breathing difficulties, and may collapse.

Signs of an Arizona Bark Scorpion Sting

Unlike other scorpion stings in the US, Arizona Bark Scorpions don’t usually cause much swelling at the sting site, and in fact, large areas of swelling by a sting can be used to rule out Arizona Bark Scorpions sometimes. Instead, a dog will develop faster breathing and heart rate, usually followed by slower breathing and heart rate. They can become wobbly and walk unsteadily, develop a fever, eye tearing, increased urination, weak pulses, muscle tremors, weakness or even paralysis, and collapse.

female Arizona bark scorpion on a bark
Image Credit: Ernie Cooper, Shutterstock

Which Dogs Are at Highest Risk When Stung by a Scorpion?

Small and especially toy breed dogs will be at higher risk of systemic signs from an Arizona Bark Scorpion than larger dogs, as they have more venom per pound body weight in them. Very young or very old dogs with suboptimal immune systems are similarly at higher risk of severe signs. Sick animals, but especially those with cardiac, neurological, GI, or respiratory illnesses, may become sicker than others and have a harder time recovering.

How Are Scorpion Stings in Dogs Treated?

Antivenom for Arizona Bark Scorpion stings is technically available but is rarely used for several reasons. It is extremely expensive and only effective when given within 10–20 minutes of a sting, which is almost impossible for dogs. The use of antivenom is also controversial as allergic reactions are common, which can be more dangerous than the sting itself.

Treatment instead focuses on what we call supportive care. A veterinarian will assess all the signs a dog is showing and treat them individually. This may include medication to support proper heart rates or blood pressure, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, supportive fluids, antihistamines, and more.

From home for non-severe scorpion stings, particularly if you’re certain the sting didn’t come from an Arizona Bark Scorpion, applying ice to the area is the best thing to do, followed by contacting your veterinarian. They may advise you to give an antihistamine or to come in for an assessment and so they can provide pain medication since all scorpion stings are super painful.

Scorpions do not always leave a stinger behind; they can reuse their stinger as the venom replenishes. If your dog does have a stinger present, you’ll want to carefully remove it with tweezers, not your fingers, then dispose of it.

Most dogs will recover from any serious signs within a day, though swellings and itchiness can persist longer.

Step-By-Step Guide When Your Dog Is Stung by a Scorpion

  1. Check if the scorpion is still present and remove yourself and your dog to a safe area. Once safe, if the scorpion is available to take a picture of, do so for identification purposes. Do not spend time containing or removing the scorpion more than necessary until you have a chance to assess your dog.
  2. Find the stung spot on your dog if possible and check for a stinger. Remove the stinger with tweezers if it’s present.
  3. Apply a wrapped ice pack to the stung spot.
  4. Call your veterinarian or local veterinary ER practice.
  5. Describe any signs your dog is showing, when the sting happened (if you know), and any details you have about the scorpion type.
  6. If your dog is showing systemic signs from their scorpion sting, head straight for the veterinary ER, calling them on the way instead of waiting.
  7. Follow instructions from your veterinarian on whether to treat from home or go to the clinic.
Image Credit: MRS.Siwporn, Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will Benadryl help a scorpion sting?

Benadryl is mostly only appropriate if a dog is having an allergic reaction to a scorpion sting. Contact your veterinarian for advice on whether your dog may need Benadryl after a scorpion sting.

Can dogs get poisoned by scorpions?

This is a poisonous versus venomous discussion. Scorpions are venomous, meaning they inflict a toxic wound onto a dog, rather than being toxic to ingest, which would be poisonous.

Can a scorpion sting paralyze a dog?

While incredibly rare, this is possible from severe scorpion stings.

How do I protect my dog from scorpions?

Your property can be sprayed against scorpions. Sealing your house well can help keep them from coming inside. Since they’re most active at night, keeping your dog inside after dark lowers their risk of encountering a scorpion.



Scorpion stings are painful but rarely life-threatening. It is best to check in with a veterinarian after a sting for confirmation on the next steps. If you notice signs like heart rate or breathing changes, unsteadiness, body weakness, or paralysis, your dog needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately for treatment. Small dogs are at higher risk of severe signs after a scorpion sting and often have rougher and longer recoveries, while large dogs can often receive a sting, even from the one venomous scorpion species in the US, the Arizona Bark Scorpion, without severe consequences.

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Featured Image Credit: Tienuskin, Shutterstock

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