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What are the effects of a scorpion sting?

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Arizona bark scorpion - credit: Brian Basgen/Wikipedia

Arizona bark scorpion

Credit: Brian Basgen/Wikipedia
From an email:
Our family has three adorable cats and we moved to Arizona six months ago.

I was wondering what are the effects of a scorpion sting on a cat? It is fatal? What can be done if it happens?

I can't classify this as a "frequently asked question" (FAQ) because this one was a first. Coupled with the fact that I have never even seen a scorpion in real life (thank goodness), I needed to do a little research first.

Interestingly, just after this email question arrived, Veterinary Pet Insurance (@VPI on Twitter) mentioned on Twitter that they have received more claims for scorpion stings. Shortly thereafter, my nephew in Arizona stepped on a scorpion, so I heard firsthand how painful these stings can be.

Back to scorpions and pets. Grant Biniasz, Corporate Communications Specialist at Veterinary Pet Insurance, offered this information:

In 2008, scorpion stings were 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.

Amanda M. lives in Chandler, Arizona, and is the owner of Bailee, a two-year-old Maltese who was stung by a scorpion. Here is her story.

"We live in Arizona and there are a lot of scorpions out here. We had a little bit of an infestation last summer. Our house is new and its on previously undeveloped land, so we see them a lot. Bailee was playing in the back yard when I noticed a scorpion in her mouth. I yelled at her and the yelling scared her. I think that when she got scared, the scorpion stung. The side of her face was swollen. She was freaking out, we were all kind of freaking out. We took her to the emergency room and they basically just gave her some Benadryl. She was fine the next day.

It was pretty much just an allergic reaction. She got swollen, read and itchy. It was scary, but I think it was more uncomfortable for her than it was life threatening. I've heard that the larger the scorpion, the less venom in the sting. The small ones have more venom. The one that stung Bailee was visible from across the yard, so it was pretty big." - Amanda M., Chandler, AZ

For many animals in the United States southwest (Arizona), the sting of a scorpion is similar to an insect sting, with pain and swelling at the site. From human reports the pain can be intense (varies with the location of the sting) and numbness may also be experienced. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is also often noted if blood pressure is monitored upon admission to the hospital.

Most animals recover without a problem. Some animals, however, will have a more severe reaction, showing signs of neurologic, cardiovascular and pulmonary collapse.

What to do if your pet is stung
If you see or suspect that your pet has been stung by a scorpion, call your veterinarian immediately. If the scorpion is still around and you are able to safely catch it, bring it along for proper identification.

Judy Hedding, About.com Guide to Phoenix, Arizona, has some great tips for dealing with scorpion stings.

In my research, I came across comments that mentioned cats as being effective scorpion exterminators because they are "immune" to stings. This is not true, but Judy Hedding has some insight about the cats and scorpion stings theories.

I Was Stung By An Arizona Scorpion
Read personal accounts of humans who were stung by scorpions.

Add your pet's story
Scorpions Snakes and Insects - has your pet been stung or bitten?

Related Reading
Scorpion Envenomation
By David Cheng, MD for eMedicine.

Photo: Arizona bark scorpion - credit: Brian Basgen/Wikipedia

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM. All rights reserved.

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