It’s impossible to always keep an eye on your dog. If yours if anything like mine, you will know how they will sniff along the ground, eating anything they come across. This includes bugs like centipedes and millipedes… which can look very poisonous and dangerous.
But just how dangerous are centipedes and millipedes to dogs? Will it harm your dog if they touch one, can they bite your dog, and what happens if your dog eats a centipede?
In this guide I am going to answer as many of these questions as possible, starting off with a very simple overview of whether centipedes are dangerous to dogs which will apply to 90% of situations.
Are centipedes poisonous to dogs? The majority of centipedes your dog will encounter are not fatally dangerous to dogs and won’t be toxic. However, some centipedes and millipedes can squirt a defensive spray that can cause allergies, and some centipedes can bite, leaving a sting that is comparable to a bee sting.
However, this doesn’t mean that all centipedes won’t be poisonous to your dog, as there are some in places around the world that can be extremely toxic. You can see a list further down the page of the most dangerous centipedes and millipedes in the world!
Are house centipedes poisonous to dogs?
This is what I meant by 90% of situations in the short answer. The common house centipede that most dogs will encounter either by eating or by a bite and sting won’t cause any serious health implications.
But that doesn’t mean you should not be worried. House centipedes can still be dangerous to some dogs which might experience an allergic reaction to the bite.
Centipedes emit a mild form of venom when they bite which is not too dissimilar to the strength of a bee or small wasp sting. Most dogs won’t find this toxic enough to be harmful, but some will…
Are millipedes poisonous to dogs?
Just like with centipedes, millipedes can be poisonous to dogs, but it depends on what type it was, and how prone your dog is to allergic reactions.
What I would say though, is that out of the two, millipedes are probably the ones you would rather your dog encountered. These cylindrical creatures are low key scavengers who are more likely to curl up than attack when they encounter a perceived threat.
However, this does not mean that Fido is free to play with one. Millipedes secrete a liquid as a defense mechanism, and some people have an allergic reaction to this liquid, which means some dogs may be allergic as well.
The majority of millipedes your dog will come across in urban environments won’t be toxic and poisonous.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule which you can see in my list of dangerous millipedes and centipedes later in this guide.
Handy Hint: Stink bugs are increasingly common in the home, but what happens when your dog eats a stink bug?
My dog was stung by a centipede
If your dog is stung by a centipede, you should observe them carefully for signs of an allergic reaction that could require veterinary care. Signs of an allergic reaction include:
- Itching and scratching.
- Hives and red marks.
- Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps.
- Red and inflamed skin.
- Diarrhea or change in toilet habits.
- Vomiting and nausea.
- Sneezing and snorting.
- Itchy ears.
- Chronic ear infections.
- Itchy and runny eyes.
- Constant licking in one place.
However, the Scolopendra variety of centipede can be considered dangerous because their stings cause longer, more painful side effects than their house centipede cousins.
My dog ate a centipede
If your dog ate a centipede, whether a dead or alive one, it’s unlikely that the centipede’s mild venom will get into your dog’s bloodstream. I would not worry unless you see some signs of sickness, here’s what to look out for:
- Vomiting and nausea.
- Agitation, tremors, and convulsions.
- Breathing problems.
Is it a Centipede or a millipede your dog ate?
According to Orkin, the biggest difference between these arthropods is that centipedes are flat and have one leg per body segment, while millipedes are cylindrical and have two legs per body segment.
How centipedes can be poisonous to dogs in the right circumstances
Centipedes are venomous, but the amount of venom varies dramatically from type of type, often depending on where you are in the world. The bottom line is this; centipedes are carnivores that inject their prey with venom.
While this sounds scary, with most centipedes and millipedes you dog will come into contact with, it’s only bad news if you are a spider, silver fish, cock roach or ant.
In most cases a centipede sting may cause discomfort, but not serious harm, to dogs.
According to Poison.org, the Scolopendra is the most aggressive centipede. This variety includes the Texas redheaded centipede, the Amazonian giant centipede, and the Vietnamese centipede, all of whom may grow to nightmarish sizes.
These guys pack a punch and do not play; human victims report that they suffered burning pain for several days from their stings.
The most dangerous centipedes and millipedes in the world
Here’s a list of the most dangerous centipedes in the world and where they live as a reference point:
- Giant Scolopendridae (Australia)
- Scolopendra Cataracta (Southeast Asia)
- Scolopendra Cingulata (Mediterranean Area)
- Scolopendra Galapagoensis (Galapagos Islands)
- Scolopendra Gigantea (South America, the Caribbean)
- Scolopendra Heros (Southwestern United States, Northern Mexico)
- Scolopendra Morsitans (Australia)
- Scolopendra Polymorpha (Southwestern United States, Northern Mexico)
- Scolopendra Subspinipes (Indian Ocean, Tropical and Subtropical Asia, South & Centrail America, the Caribbean)
- Scutigera Coleoptrata (Mexico, the Mediterranean)
Click over to this website to see what they look like.
Are centipedes more dangerous to small dogs?
Owners of small dogs may should be more concerned if they discover their dog was stung by a centipede. The smaller the dog, the less of a toxin is required to be fatal.
However, I can find no scientific proof that centipedes are poisonous to small dogs versus larger dog. But, as with anything exercise caution, as small dogs could be at a significantly higher risk to centipede stings than larger breeds.
Interestingly, the Poison.org website shared a case about a fifteen pound dog who was stung by a centipede:
“The owner of a 15-pound dog called Poison Control after the dog swallowed a centipede and suddenly began drooling. It appeared that the centipede stung the dog inside its mouth. The dog was given cool water to drink, and the drooling eventually stopped.”
Keep in mind that the biggest concern would be if their throat was stung; centipede stings may cause swelling, which on a small dog, could impact their airway.
If your small dog has not had an allergic reaction to other bug bites, simply monitor them for the next twenty-four hours.
If your small dog has exhibited allergic reactions when interacting with other insects, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian sooner rather than later to be safe.
What should you do if your dog encounters a centipede or millipede?
If you discover your dog playing with one of these creepy characters, here is what you should do:
- Separate them: If the centipede is in your dog’s mouth, try remove it if you can do so safely.
- Remain calm: Though it is very scary when your dog has interacted with something that is potentially dangerous, try to stay calm. You must take a minute to assess the situation to determine if they are truly in danger. Look for signs of a sting or bite, or if your dog is displaying symptoms of an allergic reaction.
- When to react: If your dog is showing signs of allergic reaction or distress, contact a professional for assistance, such as your veterinarian or ASPCA Poison Control.
- Monitor your dog: Most canine encounters with centipedes or millipedes do not require immediate veterinary treatment. If your dog is not displaying concerning physical symptoms, monitor them for the next twenty-four hours. If you are unsure if they need an examination, always arrange for a check-up to be on the safe side.
- Be careful with chemical deterrents: While it might be tempting to institute chemical warfare in the form of bug killing chemical substances, pause before dropping the bombs. The chemicals you spray may be more harmful to your dog than the centipedes or millipedes themselves. Be sure to carefully research any chemical before applying it in an area that your dog has access to.
How to protect your dog against a centipede sting or bite
The best way to protect your dog is to prevent the interaction from occurring. Centipedes search for specific living arrangements, which makes it easy to discourage them from being your neighbors, which reduces the likelihood of an encounter. Try the following to make your home and yard less attractive to them:
- Centipedes are found all over the world, so you likely have some varieties no matter where you live. They all look for the same places to live which are dark and moist areas. Look for dark and damp places where your dog spends time and take steps to make these places less moist and lighter if possible.
- Centipedes can be found in basements as these areas are usually dark, full of hiding places, and sometimes damp. Also, centipedes can often find insects they want to eat in basements as well. To discourage their presence, remove potential hiding places; put boxes on shelves rather than directly on the floor. Take steps to combat moisture such as installing a fan. Make the basement lighter by leaving windows open or installing window clings that allow more light to enter than curtains while still maintaining your privacy.
- Check for any cracks or crevices they may be using as a point of entry to your home, such as door frames, windows, foundation cracks, etc, and seal them with caulk or weather strips.
- Centipedes may live in wood piles. If possible, keep wood piled on a rack instead of directly on the ground, and store the rack away from your dog’s favorite areas.
- Centipedes are most active at night and shy away from light. Be sure to keep the lights on for your dog at night so he can see where he is going and to discourage centipedes from hanging out where he is.
If you find multiple centipedes or millipedesin your home in a relatively short span of time, consider calling a pest control specialist to further protect your pets, as their presence usually indicates there are other bugs in your home.
Some varieties of spiders are much more harmful to dogs than centipedes are, and as they often snack on spiders, there is a chance that is why they are making themselves comfortable at your house.
The personal experience of a reader
Since publishing this guide to dogs and centipedes, I had one of my readers write to me about an experience with her own dog. The dog, Thea, happened to encounter a centipede and here’s what happened:
“I purchased a furry teddy bear toy for my pit bull, Thea. As she always does, Thea held the teddy between her paws and pulled pieces of poor teddy’s fur coat off with her little front teeth and scattered the fluff all over the house. I was picking up the fluffy pieces Thea had scattered when I noticed that Thea was acting overly interested in a piece of the fluff and was trying to eat it. When I went to investigate, I realized it was NOT a piece of teddy fluff, but a really gross centipede! The small beast appeared fluffy from a distance due to it’s many legs! Thankfully, Thea did not eat the bug and I did not observe any sting marks on her snout. Though I am grateful she is okay, this scary experience raises the question, could the centipede have hurt Thea if she had eaten it or if had stung her?”
While there is no denying that centipedes and millipedes are gross, their appearance is the worst part about them.
The most likely result of your dog encountering a house centipede is that they could suffer a sting and possibly an allergic reaction, but ultimately, they should be fine.
Be sure to monitor your dog for an allergic reaction after any interaction with an insect and promptly arrange veterinary care if necessary.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a vet. The advice in this guide is a result of my online research into how dangerous centipedes and millipedes are to dogs and should not be considered a replacement for professional veterinary advice.
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