HOW TO Treat Your Dog After a Black Widow or Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Last Week: HOW TO Stop Your Dog From Snoring

Dogs are curious creatures. Led by their amazing sense of smell, they can easily “sniff” themselves into trouble. And by trouble, we mean those creatures that lurk in the dark spaces and corners of our houses – those creatures we call spiders.

Spiders are everywhere. They are inside of your home, outside of your home, in your garden – everywhere. Luckily, most of the spiders we encounter are not a threat, but some of them are, namely the black widow and the brown recluse.

These spiders are more afraid of you than you are of them, but what about your dog? What happens when she gets too close to a spider and it bites her?

According to, “The most common signs of an insect bite reaction on a dog include swelling and redness at the site of the bite, ‘hives,’ or a swollen face or muzzle.  However, just like people, some dogs can become sensitive to the proteins contained in the saliva or venom of biting insects.  These allergic individuals can develop severely inflamed skin, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and (rarely) death.”

If your dog is bitten by a black widow or brown recluse – the top two poisonous spiders – here are the symptoms to look for, and how to treat the bite.
What Are the Symptoms of a Black Widow Spider Bite?

Luckily for our curious dogs, black widow’s are not aggressive and will only bite your dog if it is feeling threatened. However, if your dog is bitten by one, it is a serious emergency and you will need to get her to the vet – stat. The venom of a female black widow can kill a small dog, and the venom can also have a severe effect on your puppy or adult dog.

The effects of a black widow bite will be noticeable right away. According to, you’ll see the following signs:

i Love Dogs Extreme pain

i Love Dogs Muscle tremors

i Love Dogs Rigid muscles

i Love Dogs Paralysis

i Love Dogs Death
How is a Black Widow Spider Bite Treated?

According to, there is an antivenin, but it’s too expensive for vets to keep on hand and will most likely need to be ordered from a human hospital. However, other treatment options include:

i Love Dogs Relaxing the muscles

i Love Dogs Breathing assistance

i Love Dogs Medication to reduce muscle spasms

i Love Dogs Hospitalization

i Love Dogs IV fluids

The good news is that most dogs will survive a black widow spider bite as long as treatment is immediate and swift.
How Can I Prevent My Dog from Being Bitten by a Black Widow?

You can help prevent your dog from being bitten by a black widow spider by teaching your dog not to go into places where black widows will be and to have your house inspected for poisonous spiders.

Some of the places black widows like to hide are: wood piles, old sheds, outbuildings and dry wells. Basically, you will find black widows in just about any place that has been abandoned for a long and is dry and dark.
What are the Symptoms of a Brown Recluse Spider Bite?

There is some good news: Unlike black widow spider bites, brown recluse spider bites are rarely fatal, and dogs are rarely bitten by brown recluse spiders.

The bad news is that if your dog was bitten, she won’t feel it, because the bite is painless. Your won’t even notice the bite for two to three hours, which means the spider will have already moved on, making it harder for you to identify what kind of spider bit your dog, and possibly leading to a misdiagnosis.

However, it is still a poisonous spider bite, and must be treated by your vet.

According to, if your dog has been bitten by a brown recluse, you will see the following symptoms:

i Love Dogs Within the first 10 minutes, her capillaries will begin to constrict.

i Love Dogs Within two to six hours, the bite area will become swollen. Your dog will start to feel pain, become nauseated, and start a fever.

i Love Dogs Within 12 hours, a blister will form at the bite site

i Love Dogs Within seven to 10 days, there will be rapid cell damage and a bite site with a black center
How is a Brown Recluse Spider Bite Treated?

Brown recluse spider bites take a very long time to heal – 6 to 8 months, in fact. You will have to monitor the bite site regularly because black necrotic tissue could form over the area, and if that falls away, it could expose the muscles underneath, putting your dog at risk of infection.

 If you think your dog has been bitten by a brown recluse spider, offers the following advice:

i Love Dogs Apply an ice pack to the bite site to reduce pain and swelling.

i Love Dogs Try to catch the spider.

i Love Dogs Take your dog to the vet right away.
How Can I Prevent My Dog from Being Bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider?

The same advice for keeping black widows out of your house also applies to the brown recluse. advises that you make sure your house is protected from unwanted pests by doing the following:

i Love Dogs Seal off all windows, doors and cracks.

i Love Dogs Keep your storage areas clear of clutter.

i Love Dogs If you have a fireplace that uses wood, keep the wood stored away from the house, because wood piles are a favorite spot for creepy-crawlers to hide.

i Love Dogs Remove all dead insects when you see them – dead bugs are meals for spiders.

i Love Dogs And, most importantly, teach your dog not to go into these places.


Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

Next Week: HOW TO Treat Your Dog if He Gets Sick While Traveling

Sonya Simpkins

Sonya Simpkins is a contributing writer for i Love Dogs, Inc. In her spare time, she loves to take her dogs for long hikes and treks to the beach, out to eat and on long road trips across the county. She then turns those adventures into useful advice for other dog parents who also love to take their dogs with them wherever they go.

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My Sheltie dog was bitten by a brown recluse spider while me and my husband were on vacation, and we had a house sitter to watch over him. He's an inside dog. We're not sure when he was bitten, it could have happened before we late for vacation. I noticed right away, something was just not right with him, I started checking him over as I alway do. I found a black hard on his right shoulder, and then I noticed swollen area just below around his arm pit, and red under the skin. I told my husband, looks like he was bitten in this area, and we decided to keep an eye on it. We gave him benadryl. The next day, he started bleeding from the dark area, and we got him into the vet right away. The vet gave him shots of antibotics, cleaned & shaved the area. The vet said, he may have to do surgery. For seven days we have been keeping the area clean with warm clothes, meds by mouth such as Baytrill, Metronidazole, Clavamox, all antibiotics and then a pain med such as Tramadol. As he's been healing at home, the black dead tissue area has given away and open holes started forming. We had him to the Vet on Sunday 12/20/12 and now one week later which is Sunday 1/6/13, he's in surgery. We're hoping and praying for his healing. Also just to add, he hasn't ate or drank much for a week, and lost one pound & a half.


This could be result of a spider bite or vestibular disease which is common in older dogs.  You can google this on the internet and there are many recommendations as to what to do.  If your dog ever gets bitten its best to bring them to a vet but if not feasible use ice packs and give them benadryl for any allergic reaction.  I hope this helps.  I am not a vet but recently had an issue with our 7 year old dog that I was googling.  I am so sorry to hear about your husband.  I hope this all works out for you.


I think my older dog was bitten by a brown recluse or black widow and not sure when . I was gone out of town and 7 day`s ago my friend came to check on the dogs. She said Shadow acted funny , had trouble ,wobbly walking, acted like he needed to go to the bathroom and couldn`t. She gave him a fleet enama. I got home 5 days later and gave him a bath, noticed a sort of bloody spot on his left toe area. I put peroxide on it and it foamed. I repeted this several times. He has not wanted to eat , but does drink a little water and I had to take him outside to pee. He was throwing up quite a lot of clear, gooey stuff ,very weak standing, did eat about three mouthfuls of wet dog food. He weighs about 26## is a toy sheltie and is 11 & 1/2 years old . I usually keep him inside but as I said was gone . My husband just passed away in April and living on ssecurity do not have $$ for a vet now. Does anyone know what I can treat him with myself ? Please HELP if you have any remedys.He has the spot on his left toe/foot area and it has a small whole/ pin size in the middle of the bump.Thanks for any help/advise. Ann

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