Dog Health: Spider Bite Treatment

So, we now knew that Lilly suffered a spider bite and ensuing infection. But, we’ll never know what kind of spider or where or how it happened, but she needed treatment and fast.

Again, if you are sensitive at all, fair warning … what unfolds next isn’t particularly gross, but it is upsetting if you understand the potential outcomes of a fearful dog going through something both painful and scary.

You can catch up via Dog Spider Bite Part 1, Dog Spider Bite Part 2, and Dog Spider Bite Part 3 of our latest veterinary emergency saga.

Dog Spider Bite Treatment

Once our veterinarian cleaned the spider bite surface with alcohol and drained the fluid, Lilly needed treatment and fast. That meant both massive antibiotics and massive steroids by injection to kick-start her recovery.

We’d, then, follow-up with at-home meds — both antibiotics and steroids — for a week.

It also probably helped — or least didn’t hurt — that I’d dosed Lilly with benadryl in anticipation of preventing a vaccine reaction for the lepto vaccine we had planned for this routine wellness exam that turned into anything but.

“Hold on to her, talk to her,” my veterinarian instructed. “This is going to sting.”

Now, I’ve held Lilly for many other kinds of injections over the years, but I was NOT prepared for her response to this one.

Suffice it to say, I did not hold on TIGHT ENOUGH.

Spider Bite Treatment – Big Ouch!

As soon as the veterinarian began to “push” the injection into Lilly’s back, Lilly screamed.

I mean, yipe … Yipe … YIPE. YIPE, YIPE … screams that went on and on.

This is a dog who has survived TWO painful rattlesnake bites to the face without a whimper.

Lilly whipped her head around and came as close to biting as I’ve ever seen. Clearly, I should have had a better hold. (Note to self and others … these kinds of shots HURT. Hold on tight.)

Her head otter sleek, with ears pinned entirely back. Her lips, long and thin, stretched back into a grimace, and she chattered her teeth at our veterinarian. I’ve seen a few dogs do this before, and I’m not sure … but it looks almost like they’re saying, “I want to bite, but I know I shouldn’t, so I’m just going to click my teeth at you.”

Poor Puppy Girl Writhing

As soon as all the meds were in, Lilly broke loose, flung herself to the floor, and tried to lick and/or soothe the spot on her back. She literally writhed on the floor.

For you Harry Potter fans, it felt like watching the Cruciatus Curse. Not good.

I’m sure I looked both shocked and panicked at Lilly’s reaction. “Is she going to be OK?” I asked.

“It’ll hurt for about 10 minutes, then she’ll be OK,” our veterinarian assured.

Spider Bite Watch at Home

So, while she gave me going-home instructions, I did my best to comfort and console Lilly. Our spider-bite-watch rules included:

  • Start pills the next morning because the injection would cover her needs until then.
  • If she seems in distress at all overnight (poor breathing, lethargy, vomiting, etc.), take her to the veterinary ER.
  • If she seems worse the next day (lethargy, not eating, increased swelling), call and bring her back in so that they can do surgery to clean out the infection and put in a drain right away.
  • Otherwise, bring her back Wednesday for a recheck, and if the vets don’t like what they see, then surgery. So, don’t feed her breakfast Wednesday, just in case.

best dog blog champion of my heart spider bite may 2011As a safety measure, our veterinarian asked another one to come in the exam room and feel Lilly’s lump so that he knew what was what and would be able to assess her for us if necessary the next day.

He helped us with Lilly’s second rattlesnake bite, so we’ve met before. We joked a little about how I thought at first this was another snake bite and how that would have been the last doggone straw for me. He teased that she’s clearly moved on to other biting creatures.

(Flies also find Lilly rather inviting … that story here … Lilly, The Larva Rancher.)

“I hope NOT to see you tomorrow,” I told him.

I ran Lilly out to my car, where she could relax, while I paid our bill and got her at-home medicines.

I called Tom from the parking lot. “You’re not going to believe this…” I began.

Lilly and I had promised to get some spicy, gooey Mexican takeout on the way home, so we upheld the bargain.

Once home, she had dinner … as did I, before updating our fans and friends online, then falling onto the sofa.


We’ll continue this tale tomorrow with the debate over surgery.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi - May 26, 2011

That’s gotta be SO hard for everyone, you, Lilly and even the vet. Cripes.

MyKidsEatSquid - May 26, 2011

Poor Lilly–rattlesnakes, spiders! We had a friend (not canine) who got a brown recluse spider bite and had to go to the ER, then have some pretty heavy duty medication to get over it. I hope your Lilly recovers quickly.

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. - May 26, 2011

Unbelievable! I had no idea such a small bite could do so much damage to poor Lilly. Some insect gave me some nasty bites all over my arms last week, so I can relate… hope a painful shot isn’t coming my way soon.

    Roxanne Hawn - May 26, 2011

    Ouch, Casey! That sounds terrible. I’ve gotten a few spider bites over the years, but they mostly swelled and itched like crazy. No infection for me (that I know of).

Kris @ Attainable Sustainable - May 25, 2011

Wow – a spider bite ends up worse than a rattlesnake bite? Do you have brown recluse there? It must have been a nasty spider!

    Roxanne Hawn - May 26, 2011

    Kris … Well, the rattlesnake bites landed Lilly in the veterinary ER/ICU for a couple of days (at least first one did). This isn’t quite that scary, but it’s still bad because the infection could go septic. And, yes, we do have brown recluse around here, and we have had neighbors (human ones) end up in the hospital from those bites. Our vet says we’ll never know what kind of spider this was … could have just been “no name” spider of some sort.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell - May 25, 2011

How horrible. I do hope she will be ok without surgery.

ruth pennebaker - May 25, 2011

Oh, Roxanne — What a nightmare for both of you. I can’t imagine how much that shot must have hurt. Good luck getting past this. I’ll be watching out for spiders from now on.

Jane Boursaw - May 25, 2011

Oh my gosh, that sounds awful, Roxanne (and thank you for the Harry Potter reference). I never think of a dog getting a spider bite, but as you’ve noted, it can be really scary and painful. Speedy healing to Lilly and major stress-free vibes to you.

Sheryl - May 25, 2011

Poor baby! (Both of you). It’s so hard when dogs are hurt. You wonder if they understand what is going on. Are you trying to hurt them, or help them? I hope she knows it was all out of love.

Diane @ To Dog With Love - May 25, 2011

OMD! (I seem to be saying that a lot lately). Poor, poor Lilly! This made me think about the pain I’ve experienced from Cortisone shots. No wonder she made that face! I hope she’s back chasing squirrels soon.

btw, didn’t know there were “ground” squirrels!

Jennifer Margulis - May 25, 2011

Poor dear Lilly. I had NO idea spiders could be dangerous to dogs. I’m sorry you are dealing with this — it sounds hard for both of you.

NoPotCoooking - May 25, 2011

How awful. It must have been so hard to see her in pain like that. I get my kids through many difficult medical things, but make my husband deal with dog crises because I just can’t handle it! I hope she feels better very soon. And really, things in YOUR life need to just calm down really, really soon!

Alexandra - May 25, 2011

Poor Lilly! Poor you! I was right there at the vet’s office, experiencing the pain. I hope she’ll be okay and not need the surgery. I had no idea a spider bite could be so dangerous to a dog!

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