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Initially, the bites are only slightly painful. Over an eight-hour period, the bite will become red, swollen and tender. In people, you may notice a "bull's-eye” lesion, but this is rarely seen in cats and dogs due to their hair coat. Tissue around the bite begins to die, and a wound as large as 10 inches in diameter can occur. Healing is slow and may take months.
Animals are treated with pain medications and antibiotics. Multiple bandage changes may be needed over several weeks. Some wounds may even require surgical closure. Animals with anemia or clotting problems may need intravenous fluids and blood transfusions. Fortunately, most cases only show mild local signs, but if you suspect your pet has been bitten by one of these spider species, consult your veterinarian.
There are some species of tarantulas found in the U.S. that produce venom that may cause local pain. Tarantulas can be found in the wild in the southwestern, central or western regions of the country. They have also become increasingly popular as exotic pets in the home, where furry four-legged pets may encounter these equally furry eight-legged oddities.
It’s not just the mild venom that can cause problems for pets: Ingestion of the stiff hairs covering the spider’s legs by pets can also cause drooling, oral irritation, pain and vomiting. Tarantulas can actually “throw” these irritating hairs at targets when they feel that they are under threat, so you should never put your face close to a pet tarantula or allow your pet to get that close either. However, despite the Hollywood-inspired, fear-inducing reputation of tarantula spiders, no serious problems should be expected if your pet is bitten. Tarantulas are actually in more danger from your dog or cat than the spider is to them. Tarantulas can jump and may be injured in a fall. Furthermore, this jumping behavior makes them irresistible “toys” for cats and dogs, and tarantulas can die from a bite from a pet. However, as always, if you suspect your pet has had a run-in with a tarantula friend, be sure to consult your veterinarian.
Spiders of all kinds are ubiquitous in the environment, and it can be hard to totally prevent your pet from coming in contact with them. They are also beneficial in helping to keep populations of other buggy pests at bay, so you don’t want to harm spiders that are simply minding their own business out-of-doors. However, you can do your best to minimize any risks to your pets by keeping them out of areas where spiders are noticeably present, such as basements, crawl spaces or outbuildings. Shake out any pet towels or blankets before using. Regularly dust and/or vacuum any webs away from living areas where your pet likes to play or rest. Finally, keep clutter to a minimum in order to cut down on any likely spider habitat in your home.
Read more Vetstreet articles written by Dr. Tina Wismer.
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