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Spiders and Wasps and Bees, Oh My!

Dogs love to explore, but dark secluded places, may present a danger to your pet. Dr. Michael Stone, DVM, board certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor at Tufts, states that stings from dangerous insects occur predominately on the head and paws. He advises that you should not allow your dog to poke around in dark, secluded spaces, because they may get bitten or stung.

Some of the most common dangers to your dog are from wasps, bees, spiders, scorpions and even some toads. Some general symptoms and treatment are listed, but you should always seek the advice of your veterinarian. Some of these encounters may be life threatening.

Brown Recluse Spiders
These spiders can be just a half an inch long with a fiddle-shaped mark on its back. There are eleven species of these spiders around the US, although the brown recluse spider does not exist in California.

Recluses have very much benefited from human-altered environments where they are readily found under trash cans, plywood, tarps, rubber tires, in boxes, etc. They are synanthropic (found in association with humans) and therefore are considered a “house” spider.

Problems Caused: The wound enlarges and there is a systemic reaction within 24-36 hours characterized by restlessness, fever, chills, nausea, weakness, and joint pain. Where the bite occurs there is often tissue death and skin is sloughed off.

Treatment: Wound may take several weeks to heal and it is best to visit your veterinarian.(One of my dogs got bitten one time, and the wound did not heal for well over a month.)

Wasps & Bees
Problems Caused: You may see redness, swelling and the dog may experience some pain. Some dogs have an allergic reaction.

Treatment: Cold compresses can reduce the swelling, but it should be monitored by a veterinarian. A swarm attack or allergic reaction requires immediate veterinary attention.

Black Widow Spider This is a small one-half inch to one-inch shiny black spider with a red hourglass shape on its abdomen. It is seen anywhere from warm dry climates all the way up to Canada. Their venom can injure or kill a small dog. Symptoms can take two or more hours to surface. Luckily they are shy and usually back away to hide rather than attack.

Always seek the advice of your veterinarian!

Not all scorpions present a danger, but the bark scorpion contains a toxin that affects the nervous system. Problems Caused: Signs that may begin and hour after being stung are, muscle tremors, drooling, breathing problems and frequent urination and defecation. The reaction varies with the size of the animal.

Treatment: The stinger can be removed and your vet may suggest medication to control tremors or seizures, should they occur.


The Bufo toad is usually six to nine inches in length, brown to a grayish brown with a creamy yellow belly. Two species, Bufo alvaraius, common in the Southwester deserts and Bufo mainus, that lives along the Gulf Coast and Hawaii can cause particular trouble to dogs.

The Bufo toad is found commonly in Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Texas and Hawaii. They secrete mucus through their skin that can cause intoxication if the dog puts its mouth on the frog, and it can be fatal.

Problems Caused: Drooling, vomiting, head shaking, heart rhythm disorders may occur. This may happen 15 minutes after the dog places it mouth on the mucus that this toad excretes, and death could occur in 30 minutes.

Treatment:Immediately rinse the dog’s mouth thoroughly with cold water, making sure that you do not point the hose directly down the dog’s throat. Rush the dog to the veterinarian, so he can be monitored and treated for any heart rhythm abnormalities.

Keep a sharp eye on your Kerries as they explore. Danger can lurk anywhere.

Carol Kearney

(There is a full article on this subject in Your Dog magazine, published by Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. Subscriptions to the magazine are $30(U.S.) or $72 (outside the U.S.). For subscriptions contact 800 829-5116.)


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