Pet First Aid: Spider Bites

A spider crawled out from underneath the stove last night and chased me around the kitchen. Like the calm, brave person I am, I screamed for the dogs to save me.

They sat and watched the show.

Their lack of reaction to a spider got me thinking about spider bites. Most spider bites are uncomfortable, but not dangerous — you can treat them pretty much the same way you would treat a bee sting or wasp sting. Relieve the pain and reduce the swelling. Keep an eye out for an infection developing at the bite site.

If your pet is bitten by a poisonous spider, you can have a serious situation on your hands. Symptoms of a poisonous spider bite may not show up for a half hour after being bitten — some signs take six hours or more to show up.

Your pet may:

  • Shiver uncontrollably
  • Run a high fever (104 degrees Fahrenheit or more)
  • Go into shock
  • Develop paralysis

If you believe your pet has been bitten by a poisonous spider, you need to call your veterinarian immediately. Look here for a list of poisonous spiders in North America.

  1. Keep your pet from moving as much as possible. Running around — even walking — can increase circulation and make the venom spread faster. Keep your pet calm.
  2. Keep the bite below heart level to help slow the spread of the venom.
  3. Wash the bite with cold water and soap. The soap will help reduce the risk of a secondary infection at the bite site. The cold water will help slow circulation a bit.
  4. Apply cold packs/ice to the bite. This will numb the pain, reduce swelling, and slow circulation. This can help prevent some tissue death.

If your pet has an allergic reaction to the venom, you may see her have trouble breathing, develop diarrhea, or exhibit signs of weakness. Get to your vet immediately if you see signs of an allergic reaction!

You will have some after care once the crisis has been dealt with. A dog bitten by a widow spider may be weak or partially paralyzed for several days afterwards. A dog bitten by a brown spider may develop large sores and may have to take antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. If a bite causes tissue death, you may need to flood the area with water to wash away dead skin and promote healing. Your vet will give you specific instructions for your pet’s situation.