10 Snakes, Spiders and Other Creatures That Are Dangerous to Your Dog and Cat
Nearly every day, a frantic caller contacts the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center with a poison complaint relating to an outdoor insect or critter, often toads. As warm weather sees more dogs and cats venturing into the great outdoors, do you know what hazards are lurking in your region?
Vetstreet interviewed leading wildlife and veterinary toxicology experts who identified the most common and lethal threats to your pets as well as in what parts of the country they reside.
Location: Many states harbor some variety of rattlesnakes, but the Mojave rattlesnake is regarded as the most dangerous because its neurotoxins stop prey from breathing, says Dr. Tina Wismer, veterinary toxicologist and medical director for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Mojaves call the Southwest home.
Rattlesnakes dominated the 251 snake-bite claims handled in 2011 by Veterinary Pet Insurance; snake bites, on average, cost $1,123.08.
What to do if your pet is bitten: Limit your pet’s movements, keep him calm and seek immediate veterinary care.
Among the 339 outdoor-critter-related calls for help to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in 2011, poisonings by Bufo toads and the Colorado River toad were most common, Dr. Wismer says, beating out ants, wasps, bees, snakes, spiders and others. Toad poisonings prompted 51 VPI insurance claims in 2011, costing an average $304.03 per pet.
Location: Hawaii, Florida, extending across the extreme southern parts of the country.
What to do if you pet is poisoned: At home, Dr. Tegzes says, the victim’s mouth should be well irrigated with a garden hose. “Simply run the water into the side of the dog’s mouth and out the other side,” says Dr. Tegzes. “But do not run the water to the back of the throat. You want to gently rinse its mouth very thoroughly and get veterinary attention.”
Brown Recluse Spider
Location: Midwest and South-Central United States (map).
What to do if your pet is bitten: Seek veterinary treatment.
What to do if your pet is bitten: Keep your pet calm and seek immediate veterinary care.
Range: Mainly the Southeast, from southern Virginia to Florida and onto eastern Texas (map).
What to do if your pet is bitten: Don’t pull off the lizard with force. Often its teeth will detach and remain embedded in the dog. Instead, spray some water or rubbing alcohol onto the Gila monster’s nose, Dr. Tegzes says, and it will let go on its own.
Black Widow Spider
Insect bites and stings, including spiders, prompted 2,428 claims to VPI pet insurance in 2011, costing an average of $141.23 per pet.
Location: More abundant in the South, but black widow spiders are found in most of the Western Hemisphere.
What to do if your pet is bitten: Seek veterinary care.
Location: South, from North Carolina through Texas; also, southern California, New Mexico.
What to do if your pet is bitten: Check with your veterinarian for treatment; if nothing else, rinse area with cool water to reduce swelling, Dr. Russak says.
Eastern Coral Snake
The Coral snake injects toxins that will stop a pet’s breathing. On the bright side, unlike Mojave rattlesnakes, Coral snakes actually have to chew a little bit to inject venom because their venom glands are back farther in their mouth. Dr. Wismer says: “Fortunately we don’t have too many dogs and cats having problems that way, but certainly if they do get bit, it can be a big problem.”
Location: The South, from North Carolina to eastern Texas.
What to do if your pet is bitten: Seek immediate veterinarian care.
Location: Bees are in all states. Africanized honey bees are found in the Southwest, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas.
What to do: Seek prompt veterinary attention. If you absolutely can’t get to a veterinary clinic (say, you’re in the mountains far from any town), give a small dog a child’s dose of antihistamine; give an adult dose to a large dog, he says. Dr. Tegzes views bees as more nuisance than life-threatening, although Africanized bees are very aggressive. “They have been known to swarm and bite animals in their path – there have been cases in horses that have been bitten hundreds of times,” he reports.
Location of rabid raccoons: Mainly the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida.
What to do: Even pets with current vaccinations must see a veterinarian immediately if bitten by a rabid animal. The wound needs to be treated to prevent likely infection, Dr. Russak says. A pet can get revaccinated and be observed for about 45 days to make sure he has completely recovered from the bite, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
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