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Health & Wellness

What to do about spider bites on dogs

Most spider bites on dogs aren’t concerning, but here’s what you need to look out for.

Maybe your dog yelped and jumped up from her bed, just as you see a spider scurry away from the same spot. Did your dog get bit? Was the spider venomous? Clearly, you have reason to be concerned. But here’s the good news: Most spider bites aren’t going to cause major problems to your dog. That said, there are signs and symptoms of spider bites that are deserving of more attention. Here’s when you need to get your dog to a vet.

Spider bite symptoms in dogs

If you didn’t actually witness a spider bite your dog, it can be hard to know what happened or why your dog is displaying symptoms. Generally speaking, if your dog experiences a spider bite, there’s likely to be an identifiable target-like bite mark, along with inflammation or irritation at the bite site. And, if the bite is venomous, the bite itself might be accompanied by more serious symptoms. “A dog may develop a fever, rash, nausea, joint pain, muscle tremors, restlessness or swelling,” Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM, a veterinarian with Hepper, says. Adding that if your pet is displaying any of these symptoms, you should call your vet right away.

Brown recluse and black widow spider bites on dogs

Typically, the spider bites that result in more severe symptoms in dogs are from brown recluse or black widow spiders. “The two main spiders to be aware of are the brown recluse, which is the most common, and the black widow, which is black and can be identified by the red or orange hourglass mark on their underside,” Dr. Claudine Sievert, DVM, a veterinary consultant at stayyy.com, says.

While you may not always have the chance to identify the spider that bit your dog, if you see one of these spiders, it’s particularly important to pay attention to your dog’s demeanor and symptoms following a bite.

“There is no general consensus of how brown recluse spider bites appear on dogs. However, the signs on humans are pain and itchiness around the bite, lesions around the site that turn dark, fever, rash, chills or nausea,” Dr. Sievert explains, noting that the symptoms may be similar in dogs.

“Black widow spiders have a venom that contains alpha-Lantronix, which is extremely strong,” Dr. Sievert says. That said, not every black widow spider bite carries the toxin, so your dog’s reaction may or may not be significant. “If the black widow doesn’t contain this neurotoxin, then the only sign will be some redness around the bite. But if the black widow does have venom, the symptoms may include tremors and cramping, pain, a hard belly, restlessness, a fast heart rate, excessive drooling or facial swelling if bitten in the face.”

If you think your dog has been bitten by either of these spiders, be sure to call your vet immediately.

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Treatment for spider bites on dogs

It’s always best to call your vet for guidance on how to proceed when your dog’s been bitten by a spider. That said, you may be directed to offer some simple home treatments to alleviate pain and swelling until you can be seen by the vet. “They may have you apply an ice pack to the bite or give an antihistamine,” Dr. Bonk says. But just remember, if your dog’s displaying significant symptoms, you need to get them to the vet right away to help prevent permanent damage from occurring.

When your dog is under the vet’s care, the immediate need is to get the reaction under control. Once that’s done, you’re likely to be charged with an ongoing treatment protocol. “Your vet may prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to help ward off infection and decrease discomfort while the wound heals,” Dr Bonk says. “Spider bites may take 4 to 6 weeks to heal and will require constant monitoring and possibly medicating for that amount of time.” 

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The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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