If your dog got stung by a bark scorpion, you are right to be concerned. Bark scorpions are one of the most poisonous types of scorpions in the world and they are known for primarily living in the desert Southwest. The inquisitive nature of dogs makes them particularly predisposed to bug bites and stings. While scorpions tend to sting mostly when they feel threatened, dogs may interact with them in a way that causes them to feel defensive and strike. Here is a first aid guide on what to do if your dog got stung by a bark scorpion.
About Bark Scorpions
Bark scorpions, (scientific name centruroides sculpturatus,) also known as Arizona bark scorpions, are described as being light brown arachnids ranging in size between 3.14 inches (males) and 2.75 inches (females). As their name implies, these scorpions are primarily found in Arizona and the Sonoran Desert which is found along the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.
Unique from other scorpions, bark scorpions are known for having sharp claws on their feet which allows them to climb tree trunks and walls and even hang upside down from a ceiling. They are unable though to climb smooth surfaces such as glass.
Their thick lobster-like pincers are not meant to sting; rather they are used to shred insects to pieces. When people or pets get stung (not bitten!) from a scorpion, the venom is delivered from the tail.
During the day, bark scorpions seek cool hiding spots such as under loose rocks, tree bark (hence its name), cracks in the foundation of a house, or piles of wood, while at night they become active, seeking crickets, roaches and beetles which they attack in an ambush. The bark scorpion is considered the most commonly encountered scorpion in homes.
Bark scorpions are known for injecting a powerful venom that is capable of killing a person, particularly a young child or an elderly person. Dogs are also vulnerable considering their size.
The Impact of a Sting
The venom of a bark scorpion contains a complex mixture of digestive enzymes and neurotoxins, which are basically toxins that affect the dog's nervous system. Bark scorpion stings are known for causing severe local pain, numbness, muscle twitching, drooling, and in severe cases, also weakness, shortness of breath and low blood pressure.
Allergies to the venom may cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock causing vomiting, excess swelling, pale gums and trouble breathing. See your vet immediately if you notice any of these worrisome signs!
Keeping the dog calm can help prevent the venom from being delivered through the bloodstream quickly. An anxious, hyperactive dog will have increased blood pressure, which ultimately causes the scorpion's venom to spread quicker.
"The bark scorpion is the worst of them all. Most dogs just experience the painful sting but some develop neurologic (muscle twitching), pulmonary (shortness of breath) and cardiovascular signs (hypotension and collapse)."~Dr. Michael Salkin, veterinarian
First Aid for Scorpion Stings in Dogs
Fortunately, in most cases, bark scorpion stings are not fatal in dogs and dogs start feeling better, acting normally after about 12 to 24 hours, when the effect of the venom starts wearing off. If your dog got stung by a bark scorpion, you may therefore debate on whether to take him to see the vet or not.
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A wait and see approach can be taken only if you do not notice any worrisome signs and you can supervise your dog throughout the day. If you notice any dire symptoms such as salivation, difficulty breathing and weakness, which are often seen within a couple of hours following the sting, then you should see your vet for supportive treatment, suggests veterinarian Dr. Denise Colgrove.
For mild signs of allergies such as itching or swelling, you can give your dog some plain, over-the-counter Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Make sure it's the plain type and only contains diphenhydramine without any added active ingredients for decongestion like pseudoephedrine.Affected dogs can be given plain Benadryl at a dose of 1 to 2 mg per lb of weight every 6 to 8 hours, suggests veterinarian Dr. Gary.
Scorpion stings have all one thing in common: they are painful! For pain, over the counter plain aspirin can help at a dose of 5 mgs per pound of body weight twice a day, further adds veterinarian Dr. Denise Colgrove. Before giving any over the counter medications to dogs, it's always best consulting with a veterinarian to play it safe.
Did you know? The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center provides free consultations that are free and confidential 24/7. You can give them a call if you think you or your pet has been stung a poisonous creature. They can be reached at 800-222-1222.
At the Vet's Office
If feasible, bring the sample of the scorpion (only if it can be safely collected!) so that your vet can determine what type it is. Most vets in the desert Southwest are familiar with bark scorpions. If you do not have a sample of the scorpion, and you live in the southwest, your vet will likely treat all scorpion stings as if delivered by a bark scorpion specimen to play it safe.
What your vet will do depends of the severity of the symptoms. How badly a dog may be affected can depend on several factors such as the size of your dog, how quickly you intervene, and of course the type of scorpion involved.
For severe allergies that may lead to anaphylactic shock, your dog will likely be given a shot of epinephrine from an Epipen and your dog will be closely monitored.
For milder cases, dogs may be given an injection of Dexamethasone-SP (sodium phosphate), a synthetic corticosteroid that works as an anti-inflammatory medication, reducing swelling and inflammation. Pain medications that are more effective than aspirin such as Tramadol may also be prescribed. Sometimes antibiotics may be given to prevent any potential secondary infections. Supportive care may be provided through IV fluids.
If the dog has developed muscle spasms, a drug known as methocarbamol may be used, while dogs suffering from ongoing seizures may need diazepam or phenobarbital.
Fortunately, most dogs recover from scorpion stings uneventfully, but it's always best to play it safe by seeing the vet.
"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."~Grant Biniasz, Corporate Communications Specialist at VPI pet insurance.