Though not all scorpions contain deadly venom, depending on the type of scorpion and the size of your dog, a scorpion sting can have serious, even deadly effects. In parts of the country where scorpions are common, be aware of symptoms to prevent a serious problem. If you suspect a scorpion sting, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately. The earlier your dog is treated, the better its chance for survival.
There are about 1,200 known species of scorpions. Most prefer warmer climates and are nocturnal feeders of insects and spiders. The most dangerous American scorpion is the Arizona bark scorpion, a light-brown scorpion that grows no longer than 7 centimeters and is known to cause human deaths. However, it’s important to note that all scorpions are dangerous to some degree and are quite common in the southern United States.
Scorpions sting with their tails, which contain different types of venom depending on the species. Stings can feel as mild as a bee sting or much worse. No matter how mild the sting, all scorpions have venom that contains digestive enzymes that cause intense pain in localized areas. More venomous scorpions also have neurotoxin, which is a poison that affects the nervous system.
Dogs stung by a scorpion are hard to diagnose because the symptoms mimic pesticide poisoning. The stinger is often still in place, so looking for a swollen area where the stinger might be. Symptoms include drooling, tearing similar to crying, inappropriate urinating and defecating, behavioral abnormalities, dilated pupils, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing and collapse. In serious cases, your dog may have seizures that resemble epilepsy. Deaths result from hypertension, respiratory collapse or heart-rhythm abnormalities.
There is no home care for scorpion-sting treatment as most antidotes are not recommended for use in dogs. Careful removal of the stinger and treatment of the painful area can help, but a trip to the veterinarian is recommended. Most dogs respond well to supportive treatment, which usually consists of intravenous fluids and pain relief. Medicinal treatment is usually only required if the sting causes muscle tremors or seizures, in which case methocarbamol, diazepam or phenobarbital may be used.
Although scorpions can be found in the house, if you live in or are visiting an area where scorpions are prevalent, keep your dogs inside unless supervised. On hikes, keep your dog leashed or teach it to walk a few feet from you when off leash. Teach a reliable "leave it" or recall command and use it each time you see your dog inspecting something that you suspect might be an insect. If your dog likes to chase bugs or reptiles, train "leave it" with harmless insects in your yard to reduce the predatory instinct.