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What to do if your dog gets stung by a scorpion

Protect your dog from scorpion stings.
Protect your dog from scorpion stings.
Clinton & Charles Robertson, flickr creative commons license

Among the many amenities the desert Southwest has to offer, scorpions don't seem to be part of the much welcomed ones. While these critters may help reducing the number of bugs around the home, most people would rather keep them at bay. Welcomed or not, most Arizona residents aren't willing to share their residences with these critters especially households with children and pets. Dogs and scorpions,in particular, are quite a scary match, especially due to the dog's exploratory habits and tendency to put his nose where it shouldn't belong.

Fortunately, there are many steps dog owners can take to protect their homes and pooches from scorpions. On top of that, knowledge is power in the event a dog gets stung. Knowing what to do can be a life saver and advanced preparation is key. It's also not a bad idea, to learn more about what other venomous critters are native to your area. Not in the Dog House has a list of 5 venomous critters that pose a danger to your dog.

Learning More About The Scorpion's Habits and Preferred Habitat

Knowing your enemy better puts you at a greater advantage. First off, consider that scorpions are not insects. To be precise, they are under the class Arachnida, a category that includes spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites. Unlike common insects which have six legs, scorpions have eight legs. It's also wrong to say "I got bitten by a scorpion," because scorpions do not bite as they have a stinger. "I got stung" would therefore be more politically correct.

There are scorpions and scorpions in the desert Southwest. It's estimated that only 25 out of 1500 species are capable of killing a human. In our neck of the woods, of particular concern is the venomous bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus, Centruroides exilicauda) which is commonly found in the Sonoran Desert area. Unlike other scorpions, Mother nature blessed bark scorpions with the ability to climb, so tit shouldn't come as a surprise if these fellows can be found up on trees and on rock walls. In the home, you may find them on walls, inside dark closets or under a pile of humid clothes in the bathroom.

While during the day scorpions may hide under rocks and in crevices to escape the high temperatures, scorpions tend to be more active at night, when they come out of their hiding spots to hunt. You'll be more likely to stumble on them during the summer, particularly during monsoon season when humidity levels rise and more bugs are around, rather than the winter when they tend to hibernate. These fellows are particularly fond of crickets, so if you have a cricket infestation, you'll likely have scorpions feasting. Indeed, finding cricket particles around the house is a sure way to tell scorpions are around.

Protecting Dogs from Scorpion Stings

How likely is your dog to be stung by a scorpion? Grant Biniasz, Corporate Communications Specialist at VPI pet insurance claims, "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."

How can your protect your dog from scorpions? There are several things you can do. Since these critters are most active at night, that's when you want to be particularly attentive. Personally, I find the use of an ultraviolet black light very helpful. Scorpions tend to glow under a black light at night, making them easy to spot.While there are several pest control companies in Arizona, it's important to consider the health implications of using pesticides in or around your home. If you have a very heavy infestation though, you may want to call the pros. I have had good success using Dr. Ben's Cedar oil scorpion spray. I spray this near all entry ways and other areas scorpions like. Another great option is letting dogs sleep at night inside a play pen or crate covered with insect netting.

While scorpions are mostly night-time critters, don't let your guard down during the day. Remember that dogs are inquisitive creatures. Your dog may dig under a pile of rocks or may sniff nearby piles of wood, both areas where scorpions like to hide. Close supervision is always a must. And even if say you aren't quick enough to intervene, witnessing a scorpion sting is helpful as you can tell your vet exactly what happened. Dogs stung by scorpions develop symptoms that may mimic several other conditions so witnessing the sting will prevent your vet from running all sorts of test to figure out what is wrong with your four-legged friend. On top of that, if you're able to capture the scorpion safely, your vet may identify it and determine if it's venomous.

What Symptoms Suggest Your Dog was Stung by a Scorpion?

If you have witnessed a scorpion sting, most likely your dog will yelp in pain and keep his paw lifted if that's where he got stung. Intense local pain is a common sign of a scorpion sting as this is caused by the digestive enzymes released by the stinger. The dog may lick the wound, vocalize and even limp if a paw or leg was affected.

The bark scorpion though on top of releasing enzymes, will also inject venom which contains a potent neurotoxin which will trigger symptoms involving the nervous system. You may therefore witness dilated pupils, muscle tremors, difficulty swallowing, drooling and even trouble breathing. Some dogs may also experience vomiting, urination and defecation. In severe cases, there may be hypertension, heart arrhythmia, respiratory collapse and even death.

How Scorpion Bites are Treated

Unlike in humans, antidotes for scorpion stings aren't commonly used in dogs. The treatment is mostly supportive. Should your dog get stung by a scorpion, the best thing to do is to go to the vet. There are however some things that can be done on the way to the vet. Veterinarian Carol Osborne recommends looking at the stung area and removing the stinger if it's visibly lodged by using a pair of tweezers. Afterward, a cold compress, or alternatively, a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cold, wet cloth can help slow down the release of venom into the bloodstream. Stung dogs should be kept as calm and immobile as possible to prevent blood pressure from rising which will further spread the venom.

Depending on the symptoms, the size of the dog and the type of scorpion, the vet may recommend different protocols. A vet may recommend giving antihistamines (plain Benadryl) to dogs on their way to the vet. Dosage will be based on your dog's size and weight. Once at the vet, treatment is mostly supportive. Intravenous fluids may be given to maintain the pet hydrated as well as pain relief drugs. Methocarbamol may be utilized to reduce muscle spasms. The dog will be monitored for hypertension, breathing difficulties and pulmonary edema.

Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog was stung by a scorpion seek veterinary treatment immediately. Always keep a 24-hour emergency vet phone number handy. It's also a good idea to know your dog's most recent weight and keep plain Benadryl handy in your dog's first aid kit.

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