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Common centipede’s venom won’t hurt cat, but its bites cause serious wounds

by Lee Pickett, VMD | November 1, 2021 at 1:49 a.m.

Q: Panda, our black and white tuxedo cat who also responds to the more fitting name of Pandemonium, plays with the centipedes in our bathroom. If she eats one, could it harm her?

A: No, but eating too many of them could result in stomach upset.

The greater concern is that centipedes bite, and the bite feels like a bee sting. Centipedes don't actually use their mouthparts to bite, but their first pair of legs has pincers called forcipules that puncture ants, cockroaches, worms and other small creatures, injecting venom that paralyzes them.

The venom of the small, delicate centipedes that are so common in damp areas of the home isn't dangerous to a cat, but if Panda tangles with a centipede's forcipules, the wound will hurt, and she'll need to see her veterinarian for wound care and pain relief.

Perhaps that will teach her not to play with centipedes.

On the other hand, the venom of the large, tropical centipedes that some people keep as pets is very dangerous to cats, dogs and humans. If anyone in your family has one of these large tropical centipedes, keep Panda far away from it.

If you want to get rid of your bathroom centipedes, use a piece of paper to herd them into a glass, cover the glass with the paper and escort the centipedes outside for release into the wild.

Q: Rowdy, our 9-year-old cocker spaniel, suddenly started squinting. His eye is bloodshot, the surface looks foggy, and I think the pupil is larger than in the other eye. What is wrong with his eye? Will it resolve on its own, or should he see his veterinarian?

A: Whenever you see any change in your pet's eye(s), you should get him to the veterinarian immediately. Eyes can deteriorate rapidly, and Rowdy's vision is at stake.

The clinical signs you describe are typical of glaucoma, which induces pain and blindness if not treated immediately.

Glaucoma results from increased pressure within the eye caused by impaired drainage of the fluid in the front of the eye.

While glaucoma can affect any dog, certain breeds are predisposed, including the Akita, basset hound, beagle, Bouvier des Flandres, Cairn terrier, chow chow, cocker spaniel, Norwegian elkhound, Samoyed, shar-pei, shiba inu and shih tzu. Middle-aged dogs are most often affected.

The condition develops rapidly in dogs. As pressure within the eye increases, the white of the eye becomes red, and the clear cornea becomes cloudy or develops a bluish hue. The pupil dilates, and pain causes the dog to squint.

Glaucoma is an emergency in dogs because it can quickly result in permanent blindness. Take Rowdy to the veterinarian, who will check the pressure in his eyes. Fortunately, this test is quick and painless.

If Rowdy has glaucoma, your veterinarian will immediately begin treatment and perhaps refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for follow-up care. Treatment for the eye with glaucoma includes medications to decrease the pressure, stop the pain and prevent blindness. Surgery could also be helpful.

In addition, your veterinarian could recommend treating Rowdy's good eye to delay the onset of glaucoma there. Eye drops and oral medications are available.

Humans develop glaucoma, too, though more slowly than dogs, so it's easier to detect and treat before it causes permanent damage. Ask your eye doctor how often you should be checked for glaucoma.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

Print Headline: Bites from a centipede hurt pets like a bee sting


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