What Happens if a Scorpion Stings Your Pet?

dog out in the desert


Jonathan Davidson / Getty Images

Scorpions, like other arachnids, can strike fear into even the bravest of people. While they play important roles in their ecosystem by controlling the insect population, they can still pose a danger to you and your pet.

All Scorpions Are Venomous

Although not all species of scorpions are deadly, technically they are all venomous. They use this venom in both hunting and self defense. Of the over 70 species of scorpions in the United States, the Arizona bark scorpion is the only one that can be considered deadly to both people and pets. It can be found in the Sonora Desert of Arizona and parts of Northern Mexico. Although the majority of scorpions in the US aren't deadly, getting stung by one will still ruin your day. The venom that is present, although not strong enough to kill anything much larger than another insect, can still cause pain and tissue damage.

What to Do if Your Dog or Cat Gets Stung by a Scorpion

If your dog or cat gets stung by a scorpion you may hear them yelp in pain followed by seeing them, hold a paw up. As the venom circulates through their body, you may begin to see dilated and watery eyes, drooling, trembling or tremors, difficulty breathing, and even collapse. If you see any of these signs or you suspect your pet was stung by a scorpion, you should seek veterinary attention immediately. Even though the majority of the scorpions in the US aren't deadly, a sting by any scorpion should be treated as an emergency. Be sure to call your veterinarian to give them a heads up that you are coming in and get recommendations about what you can do at home before leaving.

If you are able to get to the vet within a matter of minutes they may not want you to give anything. If you live further away, they may want you to give an oral dose of an antihistamine. Your vet will let you know how much of what strength to give. Always check with your vet before giving any oral medications at home, though. Your vet has an injectable version of an antihistamine that they can give your dog or cat once you arrive. The medication will take effect more quickly when injected versus when taken orally, so if your are able to get to your vet within minutes of the sting, your vet may want to be able to give the injection. While en route to the vet, apply ice to the sting and prevent your pet form licking the wound. Your vet will remove the stinger (if it's still present) and clean the wound. They may also give injections of pain medications and prescribe additional, oral pain medications for you to give your pet at home.

How to Prevent Scorpion Attacks

When it comes to scorpions, the cliché statement of 'they're more afraid of you than you are of them' holds true. A scorpion will always try to run and hide over standing and fighting. They like to hide in dark, damp places, including shoes, so always check your shoes before putting them on. Seal any cracks in the exterior doors or windows in your home. Try to prevent your dog from digging in the yard as much as possible. Likewise, keep cats indoors as much as possible. Scorpions don't like being out in the rain, so during the rainy months in the desert, be extra vigilant for scorpions seeking shelter in your home. The desert can be a beautiful place to go camping. The lack of light pollution means you really can sleep under a blanket of stars. Just make sure to shake out your sleeping bag and your dog's bed before tucking in for the night. A lot of scorpions will actually glow under the light of a UV blacklight. So include a blacklight flashlight on your desert camping checklist so that you can further check your surroundings and tent.

Scorpions are just a fact of life if you live in the American southwest. Although they look terrifying, they do provide a means of controlling insects that might be even more of a nuisance to us. Being aware of your surroundings outside and keeping a close eye on what your pet is up to, both in the home but especially in the yard, can help keep you and them safe from getting stung. For more information on what to look out for with scorpion stings and what you can do to keep your dog or cat safe, speak to your veterinarian.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
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  1. Kang, A. Min, and Daniel E. Brooks. Nationwide Scorpion Exposures Reported To US Poison Control Centers From 2005 To 2015Journal Of Medical Toxicology, vol 13, no. 2, 2016, pp. 158-165. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, doi:10.1007/s13181-016-0594-0

  2. What To Do If Your Dog Is Stung By A ScorpionSouthern Arizona Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center, 2020