DEAR DR. WELDY’S: I had to take my dog to the vet last week for a nasty spider bite. I did not know that a little bite could cause such a reaction. I may have taken him sooner had I known how serious of a problem it can be. — Bitten by Ignorance
DEAR BITTEN: Thank you for bringing this topic up as this is the time of year we see many bites, and not just from spiders but other crawly creatures like ants, bees, mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and chiggers. Great spots for these critters to hang out are exactly the places where a nosy, playful dog likes to investigate, including trash bins, porches, bushes, gardens, barns, tool sheds and so forth.
A small bite may get overlooked quite easily and the extent of the bite may not manifest itself for minutes to even hours. Most insect bites are due to bees, wasps or ants and symptoms can appear as early as 20 minutes after the bite. The most common site for a bite is on the face, head or around the mouth.
Inflammation or swelling and pain can occur with this and can take more than an hour to get better. When bees or wasps sting, the dog may incur redness and swelling and one can feel heat at the site of the sting. If a stinger is left behind from bees, there may be more release of venom from the stinger if not removed properly. We generally recommend using a credit card or something like it to scrape the stinger out. We don’t recommend using tweezers as this may contribute to release of more venom from any residual muscle tissue left behind.
Since you mentioned spiders, there are a couple of spiders that you should be concerned about. One is the black widow spider and the other is the brown recluse. The reaction seen with a spider bite can occur the instant it comes in contact with the dog’s skin. Most of the common spiders cannot get their fangs through the dog’s skin, except for the two I just mentioned. Other signs from bites include swelling of eyelids, ear flap and lips, difficulty in breathing from edema and swelling, welts or hives on the skin, wheezy breathing, weakness, unconsciousness, increased heart rate and fever with possible shock.