Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Dogs and scorpions, quite a scary match, especially if you live in the Southwestern desert where these critters abound. Not all scorpions are created equal, though. It is estimated that only 25 out of 1500 species are capable of killing a human. Of particular concern for humans and pets, is the venomous bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus, Centruroides exilicauda) a small, light brown scorpion commonly found in the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
Learning more about a scorpion's habits and preferred habitat can help you prevent stings. So how likely is your dog to be stung by a scorpion? Well, it depends on your dog, your area, and several other factors. The inquisitive nature of dogs doesn't really help. Some dogs will not back away from a scorpion, often causing them to go sniff dangerously near them. Luckily, dogs are likely hesitant when they do this, keeping their body ready to spring back the moment the scorpion raises its tail in a threatening manner. This approach-avoidance stance keeps your dog's reflexes ready. Fact is, scorpions can be quick to sting are much faster than your dog.
If you are worried about scorpions, remember that these critters are more active at night. For this reason, it's likely that you may find some stray scorpion in your home at night. Bark scorpions, in particular, are capable of entering through any entryways under doors and windows that measure only 1/16 of an inch! They are also the only ones capable of climbing walls, trees, and other objects. Outdoors, during the day, the scorpion hides from the heat and is likely to be found under rocks, wood piles, or tree bark. They are often attracted by humidity, so you'll often find them under flower pots or a pile of humid towels. If your dog is a digger, you need to keep a watchful eye on him as he may dig out a scorpion.
Scorpions are particularly active during monsoon season when it rains a lot, and the high humidity levels attract all sorts of bugs. They seem to prefer areas with mesquite, cottonwood, and sycamore groves. If you irrigate your lawn and increase the environmental humidity around your home, you'll likely invite more scorpions over. Their preferred menu consists of crickets, so if there are crickets in your area, most likely there are scorpions. If you find parts of crickets in your home, most likely these are the leftovers of a scorpion's meal!
What Are the Chances of Your Dog Getting Stung?
So how likely is your dog to be stung by a scorpion? As seen, it depends on a variety of factors, but also consider that VPI pet insurance has reported an increase in the number of claims involving scorpion stings. According to Grant Biniasz, Corporate Communications Specialist at VPI, "In 2008, scorpion stings were the 6th most common bite or sting, behind bee stings, spider bites, tick bites, wasp stings, and ant bites. All reported cases were located in Arizona. None of the animals experienced anaphylactic shock, and all recovered uneventfully."
As a dog owner and owner/trainer of a board and training center in the rural desert Southwest, I always keep a watchful eye for scorpions and keep first-aid meds always handy just in case. I often inspect all areas at night with a UV light (scorpions glow under this light), and I use a natural scorpion repellent: cedar oil sprayed around all entryways. My dogs and our guests, on top of that, sleep in playpens that are covered by an insect net that won't allow access to bugs. It's sure a chore, but it's very important to keep our animals and us safe! Next, we will see the symptoms of scorpion stings and treatment.
Symptoms of a Scorpion Sting
What should you watch for should your dog get stung by a scorpion? Generally, the severity of the sting and prognosis depends on how large your dog is, how quickly you intervene, and the species of scorpion involved. All scorpion stings have a common factor: they are painful. This is due to the presence of digestive enzymes, according to Pet Place veterinarians. If you are unsure of the species of scorpion that has stung, it's always best to treat all scorpion stings as if they were delivered by a bark scorpion. If you suspect a scorpion bite, see your vet immediately, and if the specimen is available and can be safely collected, take it along.
*Note: scorpion sting symptoms may often mimic other medical conditions, and therefore, when exposure to the scorpion is not witnessed, the dog may be misdiagnosed as being exposed to something toxic or as having an epileptic attack.
Symptoms of scorpion stings in dogs:
- Pain, manifested through vocalizations, licking at the wound, mouth smacking and limping if the affected area is the paw or leg.
- Local swelling may be present.
- Nervous system problems such as muscle tremors, dilated pupils.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Eye tearing
- Swelling can also be a side effect of a scorpion bite.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Possible collapse and even death.
Treatment for Scorpion Stings
There are no home remedies for a scorpion sting. The best thing to do is to see the vet for supportive care. This often entails providing intravenous fluids and pain relief. Methocarbamol may give to reduce muscle spasms. For humans, there are scorpion antidotes, but these are not used in animals.
Always keep a 24-hour emergency vet phone number readily available. Time is of the essence. However, there are a few things you can do while you are on your way to the vet. Veterinarian Carol Osborne recommends removing the stinger if it's visibly lodged. A pair of tweezers would help in removing it. Then, a cold compress can be applied to the area of the bite. This cool compress will help slow down the absorption of the venom. In exchange for a compress, a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cold, wet cloth may work too. The affected dog should be kept as calm as possible to prevent blood pressure from rising, further spreading the venom. Depending on the symptoms, the vet may recommend giving antihistamines (plain Benadryl) while on your way, so be ready to provide him with your dog's exact weight so he can prescribe the most appropriate dosage.
Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for veterinary advice. If your dog got stung by a scorpion, consult with your vet immediately for the most appropriate treatment.
Starring: The Bark Scorpion
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2014 Adrienne Farricelli
Jesus on August 11, 2018:
Was stung a couple of times and nothing really happened, my feet went numb for a day or so but no pain or anything. I would be concern about my pet if it was small though
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 24, 2014:
Billybuc, I am sure you are! I feel like moving out when I see one of this critters, luckily cedar oil and my black light inspections are keeping them at bay.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2014:
Well, I'll never know how dangerous they are, because those little devils never venture up north...and I'm quite pleased with that living arrangement. :)
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 24, 2014:
I love Arizona, but some critters scare me. Scorpions, black widows and kissing bugs most of all.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 24, 2014:
Interesting and so useful about scorpion stings. Definitely a read for dog lovers. You have improved my knowledge on many subjects about dogs.Voted up!