If you live in an area that's dry, hot, and arid, you're probably used to the occasional encounter with a scorpion. These tiny, but dangerous, creatures are arachnids with lobster-like pincers that have poisonous stings at the end of their jointed tail - in other words, getting pinched or stung by one is no picnic.
Scorpions can be especially dangerous to your dog, specifically because they're sort of attracted to them by their smell. Dogs, who are led by their sense of smell, have an olfactory cortex about 40 times larger than a human's, meaning they're not only going to be able to sniff out a scorpion, they're going to want to investigate.
It's likely that dogs are able to sniff out scorpions due to the chemical trail and pheromones that the scorpions give off in order to find each other. Are you wondering if your dog has sniffed out a scorpion? Do you want to be aware of the signs if your dog has gotten too close to one of these stinging creatures? Read on for more information!
Signs Your Dog is Sniffing Out a Scorpion
As we said above, scorpions, like most other animals, give off certain chemical smells, as well as pheromones. Your dog, with his or her amazing nose, is certainly able to sniff this out. While your pup might not fully understand what he or she is smelling, they'll certainly be able to catch the scent.
You can expect your dog to howl, bark, growl, nip, or bite at a scorpion upon investigation - some of these things are not a good idea. If your pup gets too close to a scorpion, they can be pinched or stung, which definitely won't feel great. Your dog also might chase, try to play with, or paw at the scorpion if he finds it.
Unfortunately, if your dog does get their paws on a scorpion and gets stung or pinched, you'll need to look out for signs like system depression, hypertension, collapse, diarrhea, excessive urination, drooling, and vomiting.
The History of Dogs and Scorpions
You have a pretty smart pup, so you figure that his or her common sense will probably keep them from chasing after a scorpion, right? Sometimes, no matter how clever your animal, they'll fall victim to their inherent instincts, and those instincts point to prey drive.
Prey drive is what led your dog's ancestors when they lived in the wild, and what encouraged them to chase after small, slow, or defenseless creatures for their food. Unfortunately, prey drive is always going to be built into your dog, no matter how domesticated, and might cause them to chase after what they consider prey - aka a scorpion.
That being said, that prey (a scorpion!) is equipped with defense mechanisms against predators like your dog, and will certainly put those pincers and stingers to use.
The Science Behind the Scorpion Sting
It's probably obvious as to why a scorpion pinch or sting would hurt, but it's less obvious why it's so dangerous for your pup. Scorpions have curved tails that come to a point and act as stingers. These stingers are filled with venom, which is used in order to paralyze its prey, or the predator chasing it, in order to kill it.
This venom, which is likely not enough to kill your dog, isn't incredibly toxic, but it does have serious pain and bad side effects. If your dog has severe scorpion stings, though, this could be fatal.
The scorpion venom is made up of enzyme inhibitors, neurotoxins, and other compounds that are stored in sacs of glands. Scorpions are able to emit regimented amounts of this venom to its prey and predators. Your dog, with his or her great sense of smell, is well aware of this venom, as well as other chemical smells and pheromones, which probably leads to them locating the scorpion in the first place.
Training Your Dog to Stay Away from Scorpions
While people have been training dogs to hunt, sniff out things, and track certain smells for centuries, we definitely don't recommend adding "finding scorpions" to that list. In fact, when it comes to scorpions, we suggest training your dog to stay as far away from these pinchy arachnids as possible.
That's not to say that people don't train their animals to hunt down unpleasant species - in fact, some experts will teach dogs to hunt down snakes and reptiles by rubbing a scent all over coffee filters or a similar object, and then teaching the dog to sniff out that particular scent, rewarding them with treats, love, affection, or a particular toy for playing.
However, training your dog to avoid scorpions will be a different story, we suggest ensuring that the area you let your dog roam is frequently cleared of harmful things - scorpions included. If this area is too big or is well-known for scorpions, train your dog to walk on a leash or mingle with other dogs at a dog park to avoid those areas.
By a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus
Published: 05/15/2018, edited: 04/06/2020