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Are Centipedes Poisonous to Dogs? 6 Ones to Avoid

Determining whether centipedes are poisonous to dogs is a bit complex.

Take, for instance, the common house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata). This arthropod is more likely to startle pets than actually hurt them.

Household centipedes are generally harmless, although nobody wants them crawling around the house. On the bright side, having a few centipedes in your home is less likely to attract other pests.

In this post, we explain whether centipedes are poisonous to dogs, differences between centipedes and millipedes, and what to expect if your dog does get bitten.

Are Centipedes Harmful to House Pets?

The majority of centipedes (the kind you find in your garden or home) are not harmful to dogs. In the off-chance your dog does get bitten, he or she is likely only going to suffer mild and temporary pain.

Allergic Reaction to Centipede Bite

Some dogs may be allergic to centipede bites, although it is rare.

Severe reactions could result in anaphylactic shock, which is a medical emergency.

Signs include difficulty breathing, weakness, pale or bluish gums, and swelling of the face and throat. Although unlikely, it’s not improbable. Contact a veterinarian or emergency clinic ASAP.

Most Centipedes are not harmful to pets, although…

There are some very large, toxic centipedes in North America that can cause a very painful bite. You’ll find more details on these centipedes further into the post.

What would happen if my dog ate a house centipede?

There are some dogs that wouldn’t give a second glance at a house centipede, and others that just want to gobble them up.

What might happen after that depends on whether your dog was able to swallow it, or whether the centipede was able to bite the dog and escape.

As a side note, we’re mostly talking about smaller house centipedes here.

It’s highly unlikely that your dog will try to eat one of the giant, toxic centipedes mentioned later in this post. They’re just too big and aggressive.

Gastrointestinal Puncture…Really?

Theoretically, a centipede’s exoskeleton could puncture or damage a dog’s intestinal tract if swallowed. This isn’t likely going to happen just from swallowing a small centipede found in the house or yard.

Centipedes survive by enabling a defense mechanism, which means there is a small risk that your dog may get bitten while trying to wrangle the thing down their throat.

The reality is that these creatures have small mouth parts that are not capable of piercing the skin of larger animals like dogs.

Could it happen? Yes. Would it be dangerous? Probably not. 

Mild allergic reactions could include redness, irritation, or itching around the affected area. A much more serious allergic reaction would include hives, a rash, or difficulty breathing.

The good news is that the majority of centipedes commonly found in homes and gardens are not poisonous to dogs.

Are centipedes poisonous to dogs?

The Differences Between Centipedes and Millipedes

Centipedes and millipedes have a few similarities and differences. People sometimes use the names interchangeably, but they are both different creatures.

To help pet owners get a better idea of the differences between millipedes and centipedes, we’ve put together the following:


  • Cylindrical body shape
  • Most millipede species have fewer than 100 feet.
  • Their bodies are made up of segments
  • Their segments have two sets of legs that attach beneath the body.
  • There are 1400 species of millipede in the United States and Canada.
  • There are 7000 species worldwide.
  • The common spirobolid millipede can grow to be more than 5 inches long.
  • Smaller millipedes are usually less than one inch long.
  • They are mostly harmless, but some species produce a toxic chemical known as hydrogen cyanide. This can be harmful to small animals.
  • Millipedes don’t bite or sting.
  • They are usually beneficial to gardens because they are able to break down decaying plant matter.


  • Have elongated, flattened bodies with multiple body segments.
  • They move very quickly.
  • Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment (millipedes have two).
  • Centipedes have visible eyes and mouthparts that are forward-facing.
  • Unlike millipedes, centipedes have forcipules which is a set of poison-injecting pincers.
  • The house centipede occasionally bite in self-defense causing localized pain and swelling.
  • Centipedes have an antennae.
  • House centipedes (not to be confused with the poisonous ones listed further in the post) can grow anywhere from 1/8 inch to 6 inches long.
  • House centipedes can be yellow to dark brown in color. Sometimes they have darker stripes or other markings.
  • They have small mouths and sharp claws that contain venom glands.
  • The common house centipede is known as Scutigera coleoptrata.

Some Species of Centipedes You Might Find Around Your Home

Centipedes, typically found under rocks, beneath rotting logs, within leaf litter, and in damp, dark areas. They fall within 4 classifications:

These include:

  • Soil Centipedes (Geophiulomorpha)
  • Rock or Garden Centipedes (Lithobiomorpha)
  • Tropical or Giant Centipedes (Scolopendromorpha)
  • House or Feather Centipedes

Centipedes aren’t typically aggressive towards humans or animals. If they’re handled roughly however, they’re going to feel threatened. And when they’re threatened, they bite.

Potential Symptoms of a Centipede Bite in Dogs

Symptoms of a centipede bite can vary depending on the species of centipede, size of the dog, and the dog’s individual reaction.

Symptoms could include some or all of the following:

Pain & Discomfort

Your dog may show signs of pain including vocalization, whimpering, or limping. They may try to chew or bite at the affected area.

Swelling & Redness

The bite may become swollen and turn red.


An inflammation response is triggered when venom is injected into the skin. The body releases histamine, which causes blood vessels to dilate and blood to flow to the affected site.

Venom may also contain compounds that directly stimulate itch receptors in the skin.

List of the most dangerous centipedes

There are some centipedes you should leave alone. They’re not going to come looking for you or your pet, but some will get aggressive if handled.

The following are some examples of larger, more venomous centipedes. While the majority of centipede species are harmless to humans and pets, they can still cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

Some centipedes, like the ones listed below, have more potent venom than your average house centipede.

Watch this National Geographic video on giant centipedes:

Giant Centipede | National Geographic

1. Texas Redheaded Centipede (Scolopendra Heros)

The Texas Redheaded Centipede is hard to miss because of its large size. In fact, this creature can reach lengths of 6 to 8 inches or more! 

What they look like

Also known as giant desert centipedes, these guys average about 6.5 inches long. However, they can get up to 8 or even 9 inches long in some cases.

As per the name, the head is colored red. They have a black body and their legs are yellow.

What they eat

These predators eat insects and other arthropods.

Countries where they can be found

You can find this centipede in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico.

2. Amazonian Giant Centipede (Scolopendra Gigantea)

This centipede is also known as the Peruvian giant yellow-leg centipede and is the largest centipede species in the world.

What they look like

This type of centipede can grow longer than 12 inches (30 cm) and can have 21 or 23 body segments. The body segments are reddish-brown and the legs are yellow and black striped.

What they eat

Giant centipedes are voracious carnivores that eat lizards, toads, mice, and other small invertebrates in addition to crickets, worms, snails, and roaches.

Countries where they can be found

The Amazonian giant centipede can be found in South America and the in the extreme southern Caribbean.

3. Scolopendra Cataracta 

This giant centipede also goes by the name “waterfall centipede”. You’ll find this long centipede swimming like an eel in the waterways of Southeast Asia.

What they look like

This centipede can grow to a long length of nearly 8 inches. It has long legs and is greenish-black in color.

What they eat

This amphibious species are thought to feed on aquatic or amphibious invertebrates.

Countries where they are found

Southeast Asia.

4. Scolopendra Cingulata

This species of centipede is also known as the Mediterranean banded centipede and the Megarian banded centipede. It is not as toxic as some other centipedes of the same species.

What they look like

This centipede has alternating bands of black and yellow-gold along its segments. They grow between 4 and 6 inches long approximately. That may seem big, but they are considered one of the smallest species in the scolopendridae family.

What they eat

This carnivore will attack and eat anything not larger than itself.

Countries where they are found

This species is widely dispersed and can be found in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and other countries in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, as well as in some regions of North Africa.

5. Vietnamese Centipede (Scolopendra Subspinipes)

Known by many common names including jungle centipede, orange-legged centipede, Hawaiian centipede and Vietnamese centipede.

If you’re freaked out by small house centipedes, you won’t want to see this 8 inch grouch. This centipede is particularly aggressive and will take on any animal it thinks it can overpower.

What they look like

The body color is orange-brown and has darker coloring on the end of each segment. The head has a light or rusty orange coloring.

What they eat

They will eat anything they can but primarily prey on insects and arthropods. They have been known to feed on mice and small reptiles as well.

Countries where they can be found

In addition to Vietnam, this species can also be found in Japan, West Africa, Australia and Hawaii.

6. Florida Blue Centipede

The Florida blue centipede can react aggressively if bothered by people or pets. People who have been bitten by it claim it feels like a bee sting.

What they look like

They can grow to be about 3 inches long, which isn’t that big compared to some of the other tropical centipedes mentioned.

They have pincher-like fangs containing poison ducts and have a blue-grey body.

What they eat

They kill and eat spiders, earthworms, snails, slugs, and insects.

Countries where they can be found

This centipede can be found in in South America. It prefers arid climates and, as a result, has also been spotted in New Mexico and Arizona.

are centipedes poisonous to dogs

What should I do if my dog gets bitten by a centipede?

How you handle your dog being bitten by a centipede will depend on your dog’s reaction, the size of the centipede, and what first aid equipment you have on hand.

Consider the following steps if your dog has been bitten by a centipede:

Remain Calm

It’s hard to stay calm when your dog is upset. Remember, centipede bites aren’t especially dangerous, but they can be very painful. Your dog is most likely reacting to that pain and surprise.

Remove the Centipede

Try to remove the centipede if its still attached to your dog. Use a glove or otherwise find a way to protect your hand. You can try to pick it off with your gloved hand or use a pair of tweezers to help.

Clean the Wound

Gently clean the area with mild soap and warm water.

Watch for Allergic Reaction

Some pets (and people) experience a mild allergic reaction to the proteins in the venom of centipedes. In pets, the most common causes of insect bite reactions come from bee stings and bites from spiders, fleas, and ticks.

Pain, mild swelling, and redness are normal.

Rarely, dogs could experience signs of anaphylactic shock. Swelling around the face and difficulty breathing can be life-threatening. If this happens, consult a veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic ASAP.

Provide Comfort

If you can keep calm, your dog will follow your lead. Offer soothing comfort and gently apply a cold compress to help reduce swelling and pain.

Watch for Signs of Infection

Medical attention may be necessary if the affected area becomes infected. You may notice pus, increased redness, and persistent swelling.

Contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions, especially if your dog is experiencing severe pain, lack of appetite, or any other unusual signs.

How to Prevent Centipede Bites in Dogs

The best way to prevent your dog from being bitten by centipedes is through preventative measures. Clear away dead wood and debris from your property, air out damp spaces, and reduce moisture levels in your home.

If you continue to have issues with centipedes, it may be a good idea to call a pest control professional for assistance.

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It’s essential for dog owners to understand that centipedes may deliver painful bites, but are not generally “poisonous” to dogs.

Most species, including the house centipede, pose minimal danger.

The best way to get rid of common house centipedes is to clear away old debris from your yard. You can also dry out potential hiding places like basement areas or contact pest control if you need further assistance.

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