Dogs are natural hunters and may chase after anything that moves, including lizards. But are lizards dangerous to dogs? The answer depends on the type and size of the lizard, as well as the health and immune system of the dog. Some lizards are poisonous or venomous, while others can carry parasites or bacteria that can harm dogs.
In this article, we will discuss the potential risks and benefits of dogs interacting with lizards, and how to prevent or treat any problems that may arise. We will also provide some tips on how to keep your dog and lizard safe and happy if you have both as pets.
Common Backyard Lizards Dogs May Encounter
Over 5,000 lizard species exist worldwide, but only a handful are likely to cross paths with your dog. Here are 5 types of lizards commonly found around homes:
1. Green Anoles
Green anoles are small, tree-dwelling lizards native to the Southeastern US. Males have a pink throat fan. They are harmless to dogs.
2. Fence Lizards
Also called blue-bellies, these scaly grey lizards with bright blue patches on their bellies inhabit the Western US. They pose no threat to pets.
House geckos are exotic invaders found in warm climates globally. The small reptiles with large eyes often sneak inside homes. While not dangerous, they can nip if threatened.
Skinks are smooth-scaled lizards in the Northern US. Most species, like the common 5-lined skink, are non-venomous and generally avoid confrontation.
5. Alligator Lizards
Found along the Pacific Coast, these lizards have thick bodies and tails and black and brown scales. They will bite dogs aggressively if threatened and should be avoided.
Now that you know what lizards may be encountered let’s look at the potential risks to dogs.
Are Lizards Venomous to Dogs?
Most lizard species are not venomous and cannot inject or spit venom. However, two notable exceptions found in the Southern US can pose danger:
These chunky, orange and black lizards residing in the Southwest pack a painful, toxic bite. The venom targets nerves and blood sugar regulation. While rare, bites require rapid veterinary treatment.
Mexican Beaded Lizards
Close relatives to Gila monsters, these aptly named lizards have black and yellow bead-like scales. Also possessing toxic venom, their bites can cause similar neurological and circulatory issues.
So while uncommon, some lizard bites require immediate emergency care to prevent serious medical complications. However, venom isn’t the only concern.
Non-Venomous Lizard Bites
Even small, non-venomous lizards will bite if threatened. Usually pain and minor puncture wounds are the only result. But any wild animal bite poses a risk of infection.
Germs like Pasteurella, Capnocytophaga, and others naturally found in lizards’ mouths can be transmitted by a bite. Look for these signs of infection:
- Redness, heat and swelling around the bite
- Pus or oozing
- Pain or tenderness
- Loss of appetite
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Left untreated, bacteria from lizard bites can spread through the bloodstream making pets very ill. See your vet promptly if you notice any infection signs.
While bites are one concern, exposure to certain toxins also threatens dogs.
Toxic Chemicals Secreted by Some Lizards
Some lizard species have specialized glands that secrete toxic or irritating substances:
Gila Monsters & Beaded Lizards
These venomous lizards also produce foul-smelling chemicals that foam and cause nausea when mixed with saliva. Getting this venom in eyes, nose or mouth irritates mucous membranes.
When threatened, these lizards native to Mexico and the Southwest can spray a foul-smelling musk from their tail glands. While not poisonous, the odor repellent can irritate eyes if sprayed near a dog’s face.
Texas Horned Lizards
Also known as horned frogs, these spiky reptiles shoot streams of blood from tiny vessels near their eyes when distressed. While more dramatic than dangerous, the blood could potentially carry disease.
So in addition to monitoring for complications of bites, be alert for irritation or reactions if the lizard discharges any fluids on or near your dog.
Now that we’ve covered the major risks, let’s look at preventing hazardous encounters.
Preventing Lizard Interactions
The best way to avoid lizard dangers is preventing exposure in the first place. Here are tips to discourage lizards while keeping your dog safe:
- Inspect your yard for evidence of lizard activity and burrows. Targeted landscaping changes can deter them fromtaking up residence near your home.
- Seal any openings where lizards may sneak into your home, garage or shed. Close gaps around windows, doors, pipes, vents, etc.
- Use physical barriers like fencing to section off parts of the yard where lizards are frequently spotted.
- Avoid dense shrubbery and clutter right up against the house which offers cover for lizards to nest and hide.
- Keep pet food and water bowls inside. Outdoor bowls can attract both lizards looking for an easy meal and the dogs that chase them!
- Check items like woodpiles, debris piles, overturned pots, or protected nooks for lurking lizards before letting your dog investigate.
- Use citronella or another natural lizard-repelling spray along the perimeter of the house and yard.
- Keep dogs on a leash and under supervision when outdoors to intervene if they notice and chase a lizard.
Staying vigilant and modifying the habitat around your home encourages lizards to reside elsewhere, reducing the likelihood of direct contact with your dog.
But what should you do if your dog spots a lizard?
If Your Dog Approaches a Lizard
Lizards prefer flight over fight whenever possible. But if cornered, they will go on the defensive to protect themselves, sometimes with painful results for dogs. Here are tips on handling lizard encounters:
- Remain calm. Dogs feed off your energy, so a relaxed response helps avoid overly curious or excitable behavior.
- Do not allow your dog to chase or play with the lizard. Call them away with a treat or use the leash to gently guide them away.
- Do not try to capture the lizard or remove it yourself. You could get bitten or sprayed.
- If the lizard seems trapped in a confined outdoor space with your dog, calmly lead your dog inside and secure the door. Give the reptile a chance to retreat to safety.
- If you’ve identified areas where lizards like to hang out in your yard, avoid taking your dog near those spots.
- Use a water hose to encourage the lizard to move along without directly spraying it. The vibration and movement may prompt it to seek cover elsewhere.
Discouraging interest and removing your dog from the situation is the safest way to divert lizard confrontations. But what if your dog actually gets bitten? Let’s look at the steps to take next.
What To Do If a Lizard Bites Your Dog
Hopefully with proper prevention, you’ll never have to deal with a lizard bite. But if your dog is unfortunately bitten, prompt action is key:
- Safely separate your dog from the lizard to prevent further injury. Close doors or use a leash, but don’t risk getting bitten yourself.
- Check for fang marks indicating a venomous bite from a Gila monster or beaded lizard. Treat these as medical emergencies requiring immediate vet care.
- Note if the lizard sprayed any fluids near your dog’s eyes, nose or mouth that could cause irritation. Flush with water if needed.
- Clean the bite wound gently with soap and water. Apply pressure with a clean towel if bleeding heavily.
- Monitor your dog closely for signs of allergic reaction like facial swelling or hives which requires urgent medical care.
- Contact your vet to have the bite examined for infection risk and determine if antibiotic treatment is needed.
- Keep the bite covered and your dog quiet until the vet appointment. Restrict licking, chewing or scratching as this can introduce more bacteria.
- Avoid any home remedies or letting the bite heal untreated. Lizards harbor uncommon germs warranting professional veterinary care.
Thoroughly flushing the bite area lessens the chances of dangerous infection development. But prompt medical attention provides crucial treatment if complications arise. Don’t take lizard bites lightly.
Now let’s wrap up with some key points on lizard safety for dogs.
Are Lizards Dangerous to Dogs? Key Takeaways:
- Most lizard species are not medically threatening to dogs beyond defensive bites causing minor puncture wounds. However, the venomous Gila monster and Mexican beaded lizard require emergency vet care if they bite due to toxic venom that can cause neurological and circulatory damage.
- Non-venomous lizard bites pose a risk of bacterial infection. Signs like swelling, oozing, fever or lethargy at the bite site warrant prompt veterinary attention.
- Some lizards can spray foul secretions if threatened. While not poisonous, these fluids may irritate eyes, noses, or mucous membranes if they come into direct contact.
- Prevent exposure by sealing entry points into your home, modifying landscaping to deter lizard habitation, using physical barriers to restrict access, and keeping dogs on a leash and under supervision outdoors.
- If your dog approaches a lizard, calmly divert their attention and lead them away to give the reptile a chance to escape. Never attempt to relocate the lizard yourself.
- If bitten, safely separate your dog from the lizard. Flush the bite wound and inspect closely for venomous fang marks. Contact your vet promptly to assess infection risk and initiate treatment.
While lizards seldom pose serious danger to dogs if left alone, it’s wise to take preventative steps to avoid direct contact or bites. Stay alert and respond quickly if your dog becomes curiously tempted to investigate these creepy backyard crawlers!
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s wrap up with some common questions about lizard safety around dogs:
What diseases can lizards transmit to dogs?
Salmonella, leptospirosis, tapeworms, and cryptosporidium are examples of infectious diseases communicable through lizard contact, bites or feces.
What should I do if my dog licks a lizard?
Contact your vet to ask about testing for salmonella and other bacterial infections spread through saliva. Monitor for symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting.
Are lizards attracted to dog food left outside?
Yes, easily accessible pet food and water can draw lizards near dogs. Feed pets indoors and promptly remove outdoor bowls after meals.
What does it mean if my dog eats a lizard?
Monitor for vomiting/diarrhea. Some lizards secrete toxins as a defense mechanism that may upset your dog’s stomach if ingested. Call your vet with any concerns.
Can lizards transmit rabies to dogs?
No, lizards and other reptiles cannot contract or spread rabies. However, any wild animal bite could potentially transmit other dangerous bacteria.
How can I find out what types of lizards are in my area?
Contact your state’s wildlife agency. They can provide details on species native to your region and any that may pose concern around pets.
Are Gecko lizards poisonous to dogs?
Common house geckos do not produce venom or toxins harmful to dogs. However, all lizards may bite if threatened and harbor germs that could cause infection.