According to Britannica, there are more than 43,000 different species of spiders found in the world, with only a small percentage being considered dangerous (albeit deadly to both dogs and humans). How dangerous a spider is varies some when considering dog anatomy versus human anatomy. Generally, spider venom is designed to be efficient against smaller animals, like cats or dogs.
Some spiders lack the ability to bite dogs as their mouths are too small to penetrate the skin. This prevents deadly envenomations (the process in which venom is injected) when bitten. Other spiders are deadly to dogs, and can successfully kill your pet. There are four particularly dangerous spiders that can be found in the United States one way or another, and those are: Black Widow, Brown Widow, Brown Recluse, Tarantulas.
Here's what they look like:
Signs of a Spider Bite on Dogs
The species of the spider determines the symptoms shown by the dog after they've been bitten. If the spider bite was from a black widow spider, the dog may develop signs within 8 hours. This does not mean that they need to visit the clinic. Spider's bite varies by a few degrees, with some bites being “dry bites” (bites that do not contain venom).
Symptoms consist of slight pain along with redness and swelling at the site of the bite. If there was a damaging amount of venom released into the dog, symptoms would include cramping, muscle pain, diarrhea, tremors, agitation, and vomiting.
Then, for example, if a brown recluse spider bites, the dog may not initially show signs of pain. A small amount of redness may be noticeable, along with a blister developing within 2-8 hours. It may also develop into a blister with a bulls-eye lesion, a red circle surrounding the pale area where the bite occurred. This is a sign that a damaging portion of venom was released.
Most spider bites on dogs will show signs of irritation, pain, redness, and swelling. Others will exhibit more severe symptoms such as fever, weakness, muscle or joint pain, puss, weak pulse, increased heart rate, lethargy, trouble walking or standing, vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea.
A spider bite on a dog may be hard to identify as noticing the bite site is challenging through the fur. Dogs may sometimes yelp and become anxious, or whine and lick excessively at the bite. Looking out for advanced symptoms to determine the significance of the spider bite will allow you to take the proper precautions and actions.
5 Ways to Deal With a Spider Bite on a Dog (At Home)
Every spider and spider bite is different, allowing for different actions to be taken. Depending on the severity of the bite will depend on the proper course of action, whether the bite can be dealt with at-home or if a vet visit is necessary. There are five main courses of action for dealing with spider bites:
1. Basic Treatment
Most spider bites do not require medical intervention or extensive treatment, and they can be treated by a simple step-by-step method at home. First, wash the spider bite area on your dog with soap and water, or dog shampoo. Then use a cold compress on the bite area. Repeat for the next couple of days, as necessary. Pain medications should not be required unless the dog shows serious symptoms.
2. Potato Poultice
A simple potato may be able to assist in reducing the inflammation and reaction to the spider bite on the dog. Create a potato poultice by grating a peeled potato and putting the shreds into a thin piece of cloth. Using a rubber band, secure the potato pieces inside the cloth and apply the poultice to the spider bite until the potato is dry. Repeat as needed, making sure to clean the bite before attempting to use the poultice again.
3. Baking Soda Paste
Another cost-effective solution, because applying baking soda paste was shown to heal a spider bite. Make the paste out of baking soda and water and apply it several times a day to improve the spider bite symptoms. For a thick paste, use three parts baking soda and one part water.
Known for its skin reviving properties, aloe vera is another option for healing a spider bite on dogs. It can reduce inflammation and itchiness too. Do not use the gel from a direct aloe vera plant as a dog can likely ingest it and get sick. Search for a product labeled as dog-friendly, such as an aloe mist or an ointment that contains aloe. This one from Farnam is a good option. Aloe vera can be applied several times a day until the spider bite shows improvement or heals.
5. Vet Visitation
If a spider bite on the dog has not healed or is showing advanced symptoms, it is time to visit the vet to determine the next course of action. Some spiders contain venom that needs to be treated with antivenin. Always try to capture the spider that may have bitten the dog, take a picture, or contain the spider in a safe place so that it can be adequately identified when a vet visit is needed.
Vet Care of Spider Bites on Dogs
If the spider bite requires veterinary care, the healing process can still take anywhere from several days, to several weeks and even several months. If there is antivenin available, it will be given intravenously to the dog, and envenomation typically resolves within 30 minutes. There is a risk of an allergic reaction in the pet that the vet generally counteracts by giving them medication.
If antivenin is not available, the veterinarian will treat the dog with pain medications and muscle relaxers to control the reaction. Supportive care may also be used, such as IV fluid.
While most spider bites are harmless to dogs, or close to safe where you don't have to worry, some definitely are very dangerous and deadly to dogs. Never assume that the dog is past the danger period until the spider bite has completely disappeared and the dog is free of any symptoms.
Emergencies can arise and need to be watched out for. When a bite is left untreated, it can lead to the skin dying and ulcerating, large wounds that are slow to heal and risk infection, seizures, blood disorders, kidney failure, and death.