Scorpions are common pests in the southwestern United States including areas like Texas, Arizona, and Western New Mexico. Scorpions are easy to recognize by their flat bodies, pincers, and curved tail with a stinger. But, you will rarely see them — they are nocturnal. Scorpions inject venom into their prey to incapacitate them. They also use their stingers to inject venom as a defense mechanism. If your pet is stung, it is important to call your veterinarian right away.
Smaller pets are at greater risk from scorpion venom
There are many species of scorpions in the U.S. and around the world. However, not all of these have life-threatening stings for humans. Smaller pets however are at greater risk from the venom. The Arizona bark scorpion's venom can be life-threatening for both humans and pets.
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Symptoms of a scorpion sting in cats and dogs
Scorpion stings are painful for your pet and they may yelp or cry out when stung. If they are stung on a leg or paw, they will likely start limping from the pain of the sting. This is possible from the numbness or tingling caused by the venom. Your pet may lick or itch the site of the sting — which can create a wound or infection at the site.
More serious symptoms can also occur depending on the species of scorpion. The size of your cat or dog, and how your pet's immune system reacts to the venom are also factors. Smaller dogs and cats are more likely to have a serious reaction to a sting.
You may notice that your pet's pupils are dilated and eye movements are occurring. Their eyes may be watery. A dog and cat's nervous systems can also be affected, as the Arizona bark scorpion venom is a neurotoxin. You may notice your pet has muscle tremors or head shaking. If your pet has a more serious reaction, paralysis may occur. Other symptoms of scorpion stings may include increased blood pressure and increased heart rate and urination.
Venom from a scorpion's stinger can cause a pet to have an allergic reaction
In most cases, scorpion stings aren't fatal for pets. However, in some cases, animals may have an allergic reaction to the sting. These typically occur within 20 minutes of the sting and can be fatal without veterinary intervention.
Some symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, swelling around the face and neck, excessive drooling, hives, and seizures.
Pet first aid for a scorpion sting
If you know your dog or cat has been stung by a scorpion, it is best to call your veterinarian right away for guidance. Don't wait to see if they will have a severe reaction. Your veterinarian may recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl. This help prevents an allergic reaction. Do not give your pet any medication without consulting your veterinarian first. Not all medications are safe for pets and it is important to administer the correct dosage.
You can also apply a cold compress to the site of the sting to help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort. If your pet is scratching or biting at the sting, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar — to prevent further irritation or injury.
Go to an animal hospital or clinic for scorpion sting treatment
Emergency veterinary care is critical if your pet is showing any signs of an allergic reaction to a scorpion sting. However, even if your pet has a less severe reaction, a trip to the veterinarian for supportive care is still recommended. Your veterinarian can offer medications for effective pain relief and monitor your pet for more severe symptoms.
In some cases, antivenom may be administered. It is most effective when given right after receiving the sting, so this is not a common treatment method.
Preventing scorpion stings in cats and dogs
Scorpion stings can be difficult to prevent. Cats who play at night are more likely to encounter scorpions and dogs who like to dig can easily unearth a hiding scorpion. If you have seen scorpions in or around your home, contact your local pest control.
Take care to minimize hiding places for scorpions such as wood piles and other debris around the home. Make sure there are no cracks around your doors or windows that will allow scorpions to enter. Knowing you have good pest control as well as the species of scorpion in your area can help you prepare for the possibility of a sting in the future.
Scorpions have a venomous sting that can cause pain, swelling, limping, dilated pupils, and muscle tremors in pets. Contact your veterinarian right away. Administer first aid, such as a cold compress and an antihistamine, until you can get your pet to the clinic or hospital.