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Lizard Venom Toxicity in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Lizard toxicity is characterized by the venomous bite of one of two kinds of venomous lizards, causing a myriad of clinical signs. The Gila monster and Mexican beaded lizard bites are the only ones considered toxic. These lizards deliver their toxins to the victim by injecting a toxin from glands within their lower jaw. However, these lizards are generally quite docile and infrequently envenomate dogs. Most lizard venom toxicity occurs only in the southwestern United States and Mexico.

What to Watch For

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Extreme pain at the bite site
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Excessive salivation
  • Tearing from the eyes
  • Frequent urination and defecation
  • Inability to vocalize

    Diagnosis

  • Complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis are usually within normal limits, as are the results of imaging techniques (x-rays, ultrasound).

  • Electrocardiograms may detect arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).

  • Blood pressure readings may detect hypotension.

  • The only definitive way to diagnose lizard venom toxicity is by seeing the lizard envenomate (bite) the victim.

    Treatment

  • Remove the lizard if it is still attached to the patient. This can be done by either placing a flame under the lizard's jaw or prying the mouth open.

  • Monitor and treat hypotension and arrhythmias if present, with intravenous fluids and anti-arrhythmic drugs.

  • Flush and soak the bite site, removing any remnants of the lizard's teeth.

  • Control pain.

  • Administer antibiotic therapy to ward off secondary infection.

    Home Care and Prevention

    If you suspect that you pet has been bitten, see your veterinarian. Follow all directions from your veterinarian, administering all medication and therapy. Monitor the bite site closely and report any changes to your veterinarian.

    To prevent lizard venom toxicity, do not allow your dog to roam and have access to these lizards.

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