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6 Tips to Deal With a Spider Bite on a Dog [Vet Advice]

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spider on web

Imagine that your dog found himself in a nest of spiders! What would you do? Is he in any danger? Should you race to the vet, or is this nothing to worry about? Here are 5 things you need to do when dealing with a spider bite on a dog.

Can Dogs get Spider Bites?

Yes. Dogs aren’t immune to insects and can get bitten by spiders like humans can, but there are a few important differences:

  • Thanks to their coats, most dogs have more protection from insect bites than we do. This is one big protection that a thick double coat offers! Of course, not all dogs have thick double coats. But for those that do, their coat is a natural barrier to stopping a spider from biting their skin underneath.
  • Canine skin is often more sensitive than human skin, meaning those hairless or short-coated breeds may be more susceptible to spider bites.

There exist over 30,000 spider species worldwide, and many of these are venomous! Thankfully, many spiders’ mouthparts are usually too small to penetrate either dog or human skin.

Is it possible to get a spider bite on a dog? This depends both upon the dog breed and spider species.

Can a Spider Bite Kill a Dog?

dog looks at a spider and is very scared
Cocker Spaniel looking scared in front of a spider

Most spiders on Earth can’t even bite through a dog’s skin, much less kill one. Of the few that are known to bite animals, most are more likely to cause infections due to the open wound than kill a dog with their venom.

Smaller dogs or toy breeds would be at greater risk, compared to larger breeds. Older dogs may also react worse than younger, healthy dogs. There are certain spiders that can also be more problematic for dogs. Read our FAQ at the end of this article for details.

6 Things to Do When Finding a Spider Bite on Your Dog

What should you do for your furry friend if you suspect a spider bite? How can you make things easier for your little one?

1. Identify/Catch the spider if possible.

You’ll want to know what has bitten or stung your pet to gauge how severe the bite could be and to treat the wound correctly. Your veterinarian can do this if needed. You may need to (safely) catch the spider or take a photo of it for identification.


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2. Look for a stinger around the bite.

Just like you would remove the mouthparts of a tick, any stinger present will have to be taken out. Use a thin, stiff object (like a credit card) to work a stinger to the skin’s surface. You don’t want to squeeze the stinger with tweezers.

3. Use cold compression to help with swelling and inflammation.

If the wound is inflamed or swollen, you can apply a small pack of cold water or an ice pack to help soothe your pup’s spider bite.

4. Apply water and baking soda paste to the bite.

You can apply a small amount of baking soda paste to your dog’s bite wound to stop them from scratching. Your dog is prone to lick anything that you use, so you don’t want to use any human ointments or medicated creams. You also may want to invest in a cone to prevent licking.

5. Use Aloe Vera Gel.

Aloe vera is safe for dogs! Lightly apply this to the bite, ensuring your dog can’t lick it off. You might need a cone for this.

6. You might be able to offer Benadryl (diphenhydramine).

Not all dogs can take Benadryl safely, and you’ll want to be sure you are only giving Benadryl (not additional medications). If your veterinarian has approved the use, your dosage would be approximately 1 mg. per pound of bodyweight. But be sure to always take your dog to the veterinarian first as they may want to prescribe stronger medication.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a heavier dose in person, but it’s important you always consult a medical professional before self-medicating your dog.

Don’t overreact! Keep your calm. Not only will you remain rational and think clearly, but you’ll also help keep your dog’s anxiety to a minimum.

When is a Spider Bite and Emergency?

It’s always better to contact your veterinarian if you suspect any troublesome spider or insect bite. A veterinary technician might even offer simple advice for care. Animal poison control is also always available. It’s time to go to the vet if your dog displays:

  • Severe allergic reaction symptoms/anaphylaxis
  • Symptoms indicating pain
  • Trouble walking or incoordination
  • Tremors or paralysis
  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
  • You think your dog was bitten by a particularly dangerous spider

Suspected Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can lead to anaphylactic shock, causing the animal’s airways to begin closing! This could be a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention. Symptoms should appear within 10 minutes, and include:

  • Weakness
  • Collapsing
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive Panting
  • Wheezing
  • Heavy breathing
  • Other signs of respiratory distress

What Does a Spider Bite Look Like?

If you aren’t sure what spiders are around your area, but think something may have bitten your dog, look for some tell-tale signs. There’s a good chance of a spider or insect bite if you observe any of the following:

  • Pain and tenderness around the site
  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Redness and general discoloration
  • Puncture wounds
dog getting looked at for a spider bite

How Do You Know if Your Dog Has Been Bitten by a Spider?

Unless he was bitten on the nose, spider bites, or any other insect (spiders aren’t technically insects) bites, might be hidden underneath that fur. You’re not going to easily be able to tell if your dog was bitten most of the time, or at least not straight away. Look for clues such as:

  • Furr loss, possibly due to excessive scratching or chewing
  • Inflammation, redness, or tenderness around the bite
  • Behavioral changes, such as increased anxiety, lethargy, etc.
  • Symptoms resembling an allergic reaction: swelling, hives, difficulty breathing/anaphylaxis
  • Other signs of illness: vomiting, diarrhea, fever

Black Widow spiders inject a neurotoxin that can lead to muscle tremors. If you suspect a Black Widow bite, you might see things like:

  • Muscle pain or cramping
  • Paralysis
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Abdominal pain and rigidity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Incoordination

Brown Recluse bites are more difficult to notice right away, and your dog might not show any initial signs at all. You might notice a “bulls-eye” type blister within 2-8 hours after the bite. Surrounding tissue can turn dark and necrotic (tissue death).

Your dog may develop a fever and become lethargic in the days following this bite. Symptoms can take up to 4 days to appear and include:

  • Severe fever
  • Weakness
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Pus or abscessation around the bite wound due to infection
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble walking or standing
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea

5 Steps You Should Take to Deal with a Spider Bite on a Dog

How do you personally deal with a spider bite on a dog? What can you do to help your furry pal? Look at the five simple solutions we’ve set up for you below!

#1. Basic Wash

Wash & rinse the bite with either soap and water or dog-approved shampoo. Dawn dish soap is pet-friendly!

#2. Cone

Invest in a dog cone or Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from disturbing the wound. You don’t want your pup to make matters worse by opening the wound and introducing all kinds of foreign bacteria from his nails or mouth!

#3. Create a Baking Soda Paste

Create a paste from water and baking soda. Apply it multiple times daily to improve bite symptoms!

#4. Aloe Vera

You can also safely apply aloe very to your dog’s spider bite. Aloe Vera is said to offer antibacterial properties while helping soothe the painful bite!

#5. Talk to Your Veterinarian

Depending on the spider, your dog might need advanced medical treatment. Black Widows, for example, have venomous bites that will have to be treated with the correct anti-venom. Brown Recluses can cause the surrounding tissue to die!

How Can Your Vet Help?

This will depend on the type of spider bite and how bad the wound is. Some of the vet’s possible responses include:

  • Your veterinarian might give your dog anti-venom if needed.
  • Your pet will also probably be treated with antibiotics to prevent any secondary bacterial infections.
  • Ice packs and compression are usually used to help with inflammation.
  • Your pet might receive intravenous fluid therapy.
  • The vet is likely to perform blood tests to make sure no other organs have been damaged.
  • Your pet could be given pain relief medications.
  • The wound can be cleaned and any nasty fluid or pus flushed out.

How is a Spider Bite Treated by a Vet?

This will completely depend upon the type of spider that bit your pet. Your veterinarian might administer anti-venom, intravenous fluids, pain medications, or even antibiotics. He or she will want to prevent any secondary bacterial infections!

You’ll also want to keep your pet from licking at, scratching, or biting the bite. A cone or bandaging might be suggested. You certainly don’t want your pup introducing new bacteria to the wound!

Common Questions About Spider Bite on Dogs

How long do spider bites take to heal?

This depends on things like the type of spider, location and severity of the bite, age of the dog, whether it was treated properly, etc. There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. In general:

  • Young, healthy adult dogs will heal faster than elderly dogs.
  • Smaller dogs are more vulnerable than larger dogs.
  • Chances for a quick recovery increase with prompt medical care.
  • The severity of the bite and type of spider will affect healing time.

Most spider bites will heal within 1-3 weeks. Severe wounds/bites could require surgical cleaning and debridement, but this is rare! Chances for complete recovery will increase with proper antivenin/anti-venom if the type of bite requires it.

Which Spiders Are Linked to Problematic Bites on Dogs?

It would be almost impossible to list all the spider species that can harm your dog. Instead, we’ll try to list the most common culprits here:

  • Widow Spiders (ex. Black Widow, Brown Widow)
  • Recluse Spiders (ex. Brown Recluse)
  • Wolf Spider
  • Brazilian Wandering Spider
  • Yellow Sac Spider
  • Camel Spider
  • Tarantula

These spiders can be dangerous to people as well as dogs, so it’s best to avoid them and leave their relocation to experts.

Can a Spider Bite Kill a Dog?

Most spiders on Earth can’t even bite through a dog’s skin, much less kill one. Of the few that are known to bite animals, most are more likely to cause infections due to the open wound than kill a dog with their venom.

Smaller dogs or toy breeds would be at greater risk, compared to larger breeds. Older dogs may also react worse than younger, healthy dogs.

However, there are some spiders we should all worry about:

  • Brazilian Wandering Spiders are extremely dangerous! Bites from them can kill a small human or child. Thankfully, they aren’t common in most areas of the world and can be treated with anti-venom.
  • A Brown Recluse bite can cause the surrounding tissue to become necrotic and die. Kidney damage is rare but possible. These spiders can kill both humans and dogs if bites are left untreated! These are some of the species on our list found in the United States!
  • Wolf Spiders don’t often bite unless disturbed or threatened, and their venom usually isn’t terribly dangerous. Their bites do pose a risk to small dogs, though, and can even be fatal! Regardless, you should contact your veterinarian if you suspect a Wolf Spider bite.
  • One bite from a female Black Widow is enough to potentially kill a small dog! It can also produce severe reactions in dogs. You might see:
    • Tremors
    • Paralysis
    • Blood pressure changes
    • Drooling
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Death in severe cases
  • Though Tarantulas are generally harmless to humans, dogs can react differently to the venom. Your dog should be fine even then, unless he is very small or very old.
  • Yellow Sac Spiders are said to be especially aggressive, and one might gladly bite your sleeping dog! Thankfully, their venom isn’t too toxic and probably won’t be a problem for larger dogs. Like the Brown Recluse (but less severe), this spider’s venom can cause tissue surrounding the bite to become necrotic (die).

Author

  • Dr Alex Crow, Veterinary Surgeon

    Alex Crow is an RCVS accredited Veterinary surgeon with special interests in neurology and soft tissue surgery. Dr Crow is currently practicing at Buttercross Veterinary Center (Practice Profile). He earned his degree in veterinary medicine from the Royal Veterinary College (one of the top 3 vet schools in the world).

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Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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