« Dealing with scorpions sting » | This article discusses what to do if a pet is stung by a scorpion. The example of a venomous scorpion known in North America as the Arizona bark scorpion is taken as an illustration.
- This blog is intended as a source of general information for pet owners. It does not constitute specific veterinary advice towards a particular medical case. If you are concerned with a particular aspect of your pet’s health, please, book a video appointment to talk with a qualified veterinarian.
Are scorpions harmful to your pets?
There are thousands of scorpion species living in different regions of the world. Hence, each case involving a pet stung by a scorpion would be specific to the species involved.
In the section below, the example of the venomous sting delivered by the Arizona bark scorpion is discussed.
Arizona bark scorpion (Centruroides sp)
The Arizona bark scorpion is scientifically known as Centruroides exilicauda/sulpturatus. Its length is comprised between 7 and 8 cm, with the male being longer than the female.
Historically, it is native from the Sonoran desert in Arizona and can equally be found in some areas in California as well as in Nevada, Texas and New Mexico. The specimen is mostly active during night time.
This species is identifiable from the tubercle displayed right behind the stinger. It might not always be easy to see it with the naked eye.
In North America, Centruroides exilicauda/sculpturatus is mentioned as the only known venomous scorpion in North America who operates as an ambush predator.
Composition of Centruroides exilicaula's venom
The venom of the Arizona bark scorpion is described as « a complex mixture of polypeptides, proteins and neurotoxins ».
The neurotoxin involved here impairs the proper transmission of the signal between nerve and muscles. Additionally, the venom is reported to induce the following:
- increase/decrease of heart rate
- increase/decrease of blood pressure level
- dilatation of pupils (mydriasis)
- excessive salivation
Known symptoms affecting humans:
- pain with or without locoal skin reaction
- involuntary eye an limb movements
- troubles swallowing
- troubles controlling secretions
In children, the loss of control with secretions is highly concerning as it could lead to severe respiratory distress necessitating intubation and mechanical ventilation.
There is an antivenom available, however it is costly an might not always be affordable by the general public.
In pets, despite the lack of substantial amount of data, symptoms are generally reported along the line of pain, pruritus and hypertension. Hypertension could be understood as either a consequence of the pain or as a direct effect of the venom.
Additional symptoms could include respiratory problems, gastrointestinal issues, vocalising due to the pain, sneezing, limping, head shaking and other neurological signs.
In pets, those signs are understood to last for up to 24h, with a return to normal afterward.
What happens if a pet is stung?
After a pet is stung, or if there is suspicion of a sting by the Arizona bark scorpion, the goal is to provide prompt veterinary care depending on the symptoms exhibited. It is strongly recommended to consult a veterinarian.
Vets will be able to assess the situation and prescribe the appropriate treatment which will consist in pain relief and treatment against a possible allergic reaction.
A veterinary clinician will also be in a position to examine and monitor the pet looking for any potential serious signs, such as neurological, respiratory or cardiovascular disturbances. Serious complications would involve pulmonary oedema, coma an death, but this would be rare.
In some instances, the skin in the area of the sting might slough. Hence, careful monitoring of this area is recommended. However, in majority of cases, the signs will resolve within 24h.
And what about scorpions in the UK?
This short video provides explanations on a species of scorpions known as Euscorpius flavicaudis.