If you live a warm southern climate, the springtime days are great for taking hikes with your dog. Nighttime brings on an entirely different adventure, as creepy crawlies emerge from dens both indoors and outside when evening temperatures linger above 60 degrees. A scorpion can inflict a significant amount of pain on a curious canine nose or wandering paw when your pet ventures too close to one.
Recognizing a Scorpion
Scorpions have long, segmented tails topped with stingers. Their crablike pincers make them easily recognizable by day, and they are easily seen at night under black light. More than 70 species are found throughout North America, but only the bark scorpion (Centruroides sp.) is highly toxic. Centruroides is found from California to Florida. Striped scorpions are the second most common species across the same area, but they are less toxic and help control other pests. The Arizona hairy scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis) is the largest species, growing to 7 inches long.
Recognizing a Scorpion Sting
If your dog gets stung by a scorpion, chances are he'll announce the event by shrieking loudly and repeatedly, sometimes for as long as 20 or 30 minutes. If he's been stung on the nose, he'll paw it in obvious discomfort. If the sting is on his paw or another part of his body, he'll be intensely focused on licking and biting the area. The scorpion does not leave a stinger in the skin, and the injury may look like a single tiny pencil dot circled with a little redness, or it may be completely invisible.
Your dog's reaction to the sting will depend on how much venom the scorpion injected and your dog's size. Large dogs tend to have fewer serious reactions than smaller breeds, but dogs of all sizes usually survive the sting. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center reports that 71 percent of large dogs and 61 percent of small dogs recovered fully within four hours with no treatment other than rest. If possible, capture the scorpion for positive identification so your vet or the poison control center can determine whether it is a bark scorpion or a less toxic species.
Keep Him Comfortable
Bring your dog inside and settle him in a comfortable area while you contact the veterinarian. Dangerous symptoms such as tremors, respiratory distress, rolling eyes and excessive drooling may occur as soon as several minutes after the sting occurs. Having an extra person in the car to help soothe the dog while you drive him to the vet is recommended. Do not give your pet pain reliever or apply ice to the area, as this may interfere with your vet's course of treatment and cause further injury.
At the Vet
Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog for any signs of symptoms such as respiratory distress, swelling or eyes rolling back in the head. Depending on your dog's reaction, the vet may administer pain reliever to help your dog's discomfort and an antihistamine to minimize any allergic effects. If your dog is stung by a bark scorpion, the drug Anascorp may help; however, its prohibitive cost does not commonly see this drug used in veterinary practice.
- The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy: When Scorpion Meets Cats and Dogs
- Ahwatukee Foothills News: Warmer Temperatures Bring Scorpions, Snakes
- ASPCA: Human Medications and Cosmetics -- Aspirin
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Scorpions
- UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service: Florida Scorpions
- Medical News Today: Anascorp, First Specific Treatment for Scorpion Stings, Approved by FDA
- The Arizona Republic: Antivenom Cost Worse Than Sting
- Photo Credit makfotografix/iStock/Getty Images
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