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What is Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning?

The brown recluse spider (loxosceles reclusa) is not aggressive and will not bite unless stepped on or crushed. Small bites can be non-symptomatic, but the spider’s hemotoxic venom does have the potential to be fatal, especially in small dogs. The brown recluse spider is most recognizable by the violin shaped mark on its back. It builds irregular shaped webs under logs or rocks, or inside the house in a closet or a cardboard box. Most bites are caused by the dog lying or walking on the spider. The immediate bite doesn’t usually cause pain, but symptoms may appear in 4-8 hours. A red, itchy skin lesion develops around the site. The bite may sometimes have a bullseye look with a white center or a ring around the outside. There may be a blistered area as well as considerable redness and swelling. Brown recluse spider venom causes necrosis in the skin (cell death). As symptoms progress, the dead cells will turn black and fall off leaving a gaping wound that may be as big the width of a hand. The area will eventually heal, although it may take a number of months. If a lot of venom is injected, or the dog is very sensitive to the venom, a systemic infection can develop. This is less common, but it can lead to serious problems including anemia, blood clots, and kidney failure. In severe cases, the bites can be fatal. There is no antidote, but early treatment with corticosteroids can reduce the chances of a systemic infection.

The majority of spider bites are harmless to dogs. Only a few spiders have venom strong enough to cause significant symptoms in such a small dose. The brown recluse spider is one of these, found most commonly in the southern and midwestern parts of the United States. In dogs, bites can infect the skin and sometimes cause systemic illness.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $250 - $6,500

Average Cost

$1,200

Symptoms of Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning in Dogs

Pain, or reluctance to put weight on one leg may be the first signs of a spider bite. Symptoms of skin infection around the bite will appear within a few hours. These symptoms should be treated by a veterinarian to avoid further problems.

  • Signs of pain
  • Skin lesion that is red, itchy and painful
  • Skin lesion with a bulls eye effect
  • Swelling
  • Blister
  • Bruised, inflamed area spreading around the lesion or blister
  • Necrotic tissue (black area of dead skin cells) around the bite
  • Hole or wound after the damaged tissue has fallen off
  • Scab that may take months to heal

A systemic infection can take up to 4 days to appear. These are the signs to look for.

  • Thirst
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Water retention (edema)
  • Renal failure
  • Shock

Types

There are quite a few spiders in the loxosceles genus, but the brown recluse is the most common. A bite by another type of loxosceles spider will cause approximately the same symptoms. A bite by the hobo spider, a more aggressive house spider found in the northwestern United States, can also cause similar skin necrosis.

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Causes of Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning in Dogs

Brown recluse spiders need pressure in order to inject venom. These are some of the reasons your dog might get bitten.

  • Walking through a spider web
  • Sitting or lying on a spider
  • Investigating a dark secluded place such as a hollow log
  • Digging through dry leaves
  • Sleeping under a porch
  • Spider infestation in a kennel
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Diagnosis of Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning in Dogs

In most cases, the owner will not see when their dog gets bitten. Dogs don’t usually show visible pain and many bites occur when the dog is alone. The veterinarian will physically examine the area and ask for a detailed description of the symptoms, including when you first noticed the problem. He will take your dog’s temperature, vital signs, and bloodwork to check for anemia and other symptoms of systemic illness, as well as evaluate the possibility of other causes.

The appearance of the bite and the skin necrosis around it is usually a good indication of a brown recluse spider bite, depending of course on the location. If you did see the spider the veterinarian will ask for a description. Brown recluse spiders are between 6 and 20 mm across. They are typically light brown, but there can be a good deal of color variation. The black violin shaped mark on the front, head-part of the abdomen is the most distinctive mark. The spiders also have only three pairs of eyes, unlike most spiders which have four, but this is not easy to see without a magnifying glass.

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Treatment of Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning in Dogs

An ice pack is a good first treatment for redness and swelling. Get to the veterinarian as soon as possible as early treatment can prevent more severe illness. Corticosteroids are often prescribed. In the early stages, this can stop the necrosis from spreading too much. It can also help to contain the venom in the infected cells and protect against systemic illness. The veterinarian will suggest you monitor your dog closely for further symptoms. 

Dogs that are very ill will be given fluids and electrolytes as needed. Severe anemia and blood clotting problems could require blood transfusion. The most common drug used to treat brown recluse spider in humans and dogs is a leprosy drug called dapsone. This may be prescribed for more severe cases.

Antibiotics are usually given to prevent infections from developing. The veterinarian will likely also give you an antiseptic solution to clean the area. This will have to be done several times a day. The wound will need to be covered with a bandage. In some cases, tetanus shots are also given.

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Recovery of Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning in Dogs

Most dogs make a complete recovery from brown recluse spider bite poisoning. However, it can take many months for the wound at the infection site to fully heal, and sometimes scars are left behind. If this is a problem, show dogs can have plastic surgery to remove the mark.

The best way to manage the problem is to prevent it. Many bites occur because of an infestation of spiders in a house, a kennel, or some other place the dog goes regularly. Spraying for spiders and other insects frequently can help prevent this. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with all the poisonous spiders and other animals in your area, so you can recognize them immediately. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of poisoning and get your dog treated right away.

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Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $250 - $6,500

Average Cost

$1,200

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Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pit Bullmastiff

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2 1/2 years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

Very swollen paw from what we think is a brown recluse spider bite

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello Thank you for the picture. The swelling on his paw is quite concerning. I recommend that you take him to a veterinarian for an exam. They may want to do wound care on the area or prescribe medication like antibiotics. Good luck.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Husky

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10 Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Sore, Thirst, Malaise

Curious if this is possibly a brown recluse bite

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm not able to see the picture, unfortunately. If you do think that your dog has a spider bite or there is a wound of some kind, and she is sore and not feeling well, it would probably be a good idea to have her seen by your veterinarian. They would be able to give her a good examination, see what might be going on, and get treatment for her so that she feels better. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 22, 2020

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Buster

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Chihuahua and Rat Terrier

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16 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Slightly Aggressive Now

I believe my dog may have been but by a spider, of what nature I am uncertain however the wound is on his left side just below his last set of ribs. The wound is about the size of a nickle around and has a ring of what looks like scar tissue (no previous injuries) at first the inside of this ring had what appeared to be a scab from what I thought was from a fight he had recently been in with one of our other dogs but now it looks like the "scab" has shriveled and underneath that is another layer of raw tissue... he now has started to loose a small ring of hair around his wound as well... does this sound like a brown recluse bite and should I take him to the vets office asap???

Aug. 31, 2018

Buster's Owner

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Sicui

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Belgian Shepherd

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Anemia
Necrosis
Somnolence
Leucopenia
Minimum Platelets

Si cui, my 8 year old belgian shepperd has a wound that started 3 days ago, we thought she was wounded by a cat or a rat, we went to the vet, they gave us meloxicam, but after 24hrs her paw started to swell and bleed they gave us cefalexin, after 48 hrs she had signs of necrosis and everything inflamated to her armpit (pawpit), she is hopitalized, se has anemia and plaquetopenia, we suspect hemolisis, Can I use human antivenom for my dog?

July 30, 2018

Sicui's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

You should not use anything on Sicui without consulting with your Veterinarian, as far as I am aware there is no antivenom for brown recluse spider venom; you should discuss Sicui’s case with your Veterinarian and treat with supportive and symptomatic care. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/brown-recluse-spider/

July 31, 2018

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Tyson

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Bluenose pitbull

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Can I give my dog Amox/K Clav 8.75mg for a spider bite? Bite is 1 1/2wks old.On front paw, has oozy puncture blk blister-like spots,it's red and goes down in between his toes,has lost all fur in that area

July 13, 2018

Tyson's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Tyson I cannot recommend the use of antibiotics, especially any which you may have just lying around; I don’t know if they are out of date, stored correctly, contaminated or anything else. If there is a wound on the paw you should have your Veterinarian take a look at it to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 14, 2018

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Ollie

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Bichon Frise

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4 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Fever
Lethargy
Loss Of Appetite
Necrosis
Abscess

Ollie had been playing outside for a while on a hot NC July afternoon. When he came in that evening he was lethargic and refused food or water; he also felt warm. I thought perhaps he'd gotten overheated or sun poisoning so I took him to the vet first thing the next morning. The vet checked him out and found an abscess on his right hip. She lanced the wound to drain it, bandaged it, and sent us home with antibiotics. Fast forward 4 days and a large patch of necrotic tissue appeared next to the wound. A return trip to the vet found him to be almost septic. A blood culture revealed he had 3 active infections (pseudomonas, group A strep, and I forget the third). The necrotic tissue has spread to his entire right hip area, down behind and inside his right leg, and a patch appeared at the base of his tail. He was taken into surgery for the dead tissue to be abraded. He was heavily bandaged and sent home that day with three antibiotics and pain medicine. He needed to return to the vet daily for bandage changes for three weeks (his bandages were wet bandages so as not to stick to his wounds). We are in his fourth week of recovery and grateful to say that he is improving daily. He is down to only one antibiotic, off pain medication, and now goes every two days for bandage changes. It will be several more weeks (if not months) until he is fully recovered. There is no conclusive evidence of what he was bit by, but we do have brown recluse in the immediate area and no snakes in the area with necrotic venom.

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Rexi

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Mix

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Weakness
Breathing Difficulties

My dog was let outside to use the bathroom. A couple hours later I found him just laying by the door. He is not dead but he is nay able to fully move. I believe it was a brown recluse spider bite. I’ve been giving him water by a syringe and he has been drinking it. He is still trying to bark and stuff but I am very afraid. I have no money for a vet. Is there any home remedies that will help. Please, this puppy means so much to me

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Reggie

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Goldendoodle

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5 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Rapid Breathing
Drooling
Vomiting
Increased Urination
Loss Of Motor Function
Muscle Stiffness
Increased Heart Rate
Lack Of Appetite
Necrosis
Muscle Swelling
Increased Thirst
Lack Of Coordination
Blood In Stool

My male Goldendoodles 5 years old 65 lbs had a swollen left lip and throat and severe nausea stomach pain vomiting blood and bloody diarrhea accompanied with drooling loss of balance stiff muscles refusal of water. The next day the left lip had went into necrosis along with his swollen throat his heart rate and breathing increased and he went into total organ failure in the hospital we had to put him down two days after the supposed bite. From what we understand he had tried to eat the spider it bit his lip and the drainage from the saliva sent his lip and throat into necrosis and his body shut down. The vets theorized that it was a brown recluse but after some research they are rare in the area and it could've been a brown widow but it wouldn't have explained the muscle stiffness has anyone ever heard of a case like this?

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Roots

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American Bully Staffy Bull Terrier

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Paw

My dog was bitten on paw about 3 or 4 days ago can't afford a vet. Paw is swollen and discharge is coming From paw dew claw and up leg. Discharge is bloody or yellow or clear.

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Willow

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Border Beagle

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Inflamation

After two months of trying to determine the cause of a red, angry looking bump on my pup's leg, my vet determined it was a spider bite. She had all of the symptoms of this particular bit. I believe I was even there when she was bit, we were playing outside when she stepped on something and suddenly jumped away and cried. I was quick to check her body but found nothing, a week later we found the bite. She's now had it for about 2 months, and the area is no longer beaming red but dark grey. We've been using topical steroid cream prescribed by the vet and we were told to just keep an eye on it. Is her injury far enough along that it won't be fatal throughout the rest of her recovery? The scab hasn't fallen off yet, but imagine the biggest threat after that would be making sure it doesn't get infected. If the skin does fall off should we wrap it and get a cone so she doesn't mess with it? Is there any way to prevent this from happening again?

Brown Recluse Spider Bite Poisoning Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $250 - $6,500

Average Cost

$1,200