Fine weather and great holiday periods often means we set out with our pets to enjoy the fresh air and some time out from the confines of home. Some of us are chilling out and taking our pets for a nice long walk by the river, others have our pets out on task chopping up that much needed wood and kindling for the fast approaching winter. I thought I might take the time out to chat about red back spiders today as I had my own dog and cat out on the weekend checking out the woodpile and trying to figure out what critters lay beneath as we planned our winter wood collection. To my horror, my pets and I stumbled across quite a nest of red back spiders.
Red back spiders pose quite a hazard to people and also to pets. A bite to the nose or the lip of your pet can quickly lead to some serious symptoms.
As pets go, Guinea Pigs are the most susceptible to the bite of a Red Back. Cats come next and dogs are the most resistant to the bite, but they are certainly not immune. After a Red Back bites, your pet will show intense pain at the site of the bite, especially if touched. Cats will usually salivate excessively and will produce thick, ropy saliva. The cat will be distressed, restless and breathless. It will usually show muscular weakness or tremors and muscle paralysis.
Red Back Spiders often bite cats on the tongue. This causes the cat great distress and the tongue will often protrude from the mouth.
Dogs are less susceptible to the bite of a Red Back Spider but the signs are similar. Pain at the site of the bite occurs and your dog may also vomit.
An antivenene is available and is rapidly effective. While it is not always used in dogs, it is usually lifesaving with cats. As a minimum, intensive supportive care with intravenous fluids and veterinary anti-inflammatory treatment in hospital is indicated.
Naturally signs of red back spider bites will cause concern enough to seek swift veterinary help for your pet. Please keep extra watch out for these little red back hazards when lifting wood and other objects in the yard during this Autumn and seek out local veterinary advice if you feel your pet may be affected.
Written by Dr Renee Pigdon