Dog Health: Spider Bite

Yesterday, we continued the story of this mysterious mass I found on Lilly’s neck while awaiting a routine veterinary exam. Today, let’s move on with the diagnosis of the sudden onset (possible) veterinary emergency. It is a bad spider bite.

Fair warning … if you are squeamish at all.

Dog Spider Bite Diagnosis

The first step? Shave Lilly’s neck so that we could get a better look at the big, squishy lump that took up the better part of Lilly’s neck and lower cheek on the left side.

(I’m sorry I do not have pictures before treatment began because I spaced out bringing my camera to the appointment.)

Credit the cocktail of xanax and benadryl, but Lilly took the hum of the coat clippers and us holding her face up and away in stride. She sat still. She didn’t struggle. She didn’t fuss, as our veterinarian shaved away the black-and-white of Lilly’s ruff.

Even as a “smooth coat border collie,” Lilly’s neck area is her fluffiest part, so a good amount of coat came off.

Once again, our veterinarian groped the mass. She pointed out:

  • How the red area and bruising centered toward the top
  • How the discoloration streaked downward
  • How the whole mass centered around a more solid core
  • And, how a drooping pocket of fluid draped down below the main area
best dog blog champion of my heart Lilly spider bite may 2011

Photo from Monday evening after we got home from the veterinary hospital, after Lilly’s doctor drained off 12-15 ccs of fluid from the spider bite abscess.

Spider Bites Dog – What Our DVM Said

“That’s a spider bite, and I’m betting its infected based on this abscess,” she said. “We’ll have to get a needle in there.”

After cleaning the area with alcohol, our veterinarian stuck a needle, with a good-sized syringe attached, into Lilly’s mass.

I held Lilly in place, with her head stretched upward — exposing her neck better — while our veterinarian maneuvered the needle in and out, up and down, drawing a good amount of blood and gunk out of the mass.

She pulled out 12-15 ccs of stuff, which brought the mass down about 50%.

She stepped away to grab a paper towel so that she could squirt out some of the fluid to get a better look … and smell.

Spider Bite on a Dog – Major Yuck!

“Whew. Yeah, that’s infected,” she said, after taking a whiff of the rank gunk that just came out of our dear, sweet canine heroine.

“Because there is so much blood,” she explained, “that tells me this bite is recent. Usually people don’t find these bites for a day or two, and what we get out looks different. So, you might be right. This might have happened today.”

Change of Plans!

This appointment, original meant to be a routine wellness exam, had turned into anything but routine. I knew they were getting ready to close up the hospital, and here Lilly and I were causing an unexpected delay. I felt bad about that, but I was thankful that we happened to be in an exam room when I found the mass … because if it had been any other day, and I found a lump on one of the dogs at nearly 5 pm, it would have meant a trip to the 24/7 veterinary ER / ICU … and all that entails.

Several of our Twitter followers began using the #divineintervention hashtag when exchanging tweets about Lilly’s spider bite and the story behind it (at least as much as I could share in 140 characters).

Maybe they are right. Perhaps we’re more blessed than I know.

Dog Spider Bite Treatment

“I’m going to give her a shot of antibiotics and steroids and send you home with some, but if this isn’t much better by Wednesday, we’ll need to do surgery,” she said, before leaving the room to get some meds for Lilly. “And, if it gets worse tomorrow, don’t wait. Bring her back.”

“Oh, you poor baby girl,” I said to Lilly once we were alone, trying hard not to cry

best dog blog champion of my heart lilly spider bite may 2011

Another view of the spider bite from Monday night, after we got home, showing how much it stood off from her neck.

It isn’t like we haven’t been through some scary things with Lilly — parvo, kennel cough that turned into pneumonia, the rattlesnake bites (yes 2 of them, with one additional close call), and the pre-xmas emergency famously known as Lilly and the Technicolor Vomit.

BUT, it had already been a rough day. And, the news that we were facing a bit of an emergency caught me off guard.


We’ll continue this tale tomorrow with the immediate treatment.

Additional Posts About the Spider Bite Here

Additional spider bite treatment information

Follow up veterinary appointment for dog with spider bite

Recheck #2 – dog spider bite saga continues

Recheck #3

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.

bite attack - September 16, 2011

I must say that you were fortunate that you came to know about spider bite on time. Last year my uncle’s dog died due to spider bite which was not noticed by anyone.

Pam James - June 27, 2011

OUr dog Sadie just got treated for a spider bite this past Friday. We found the lump a week ago and thought it was from shots she had just had. Well, I was planning to take her to the bet on Saturday for a thyroid blood draw and to check the knot but we didn’t make it. On Friday the lump abscessed. I had blood all over the kitchen floor.
It had been at least a week or maybe longer since she was bitten and there was a lot of blood. So, I don’t know why they think if there’s a lot of blood, it’s recent. She is taking an antibiotic 2x daily for 2 weeks and a steroid pill for a week and we have to apply ointment to the area 3x a day.
She is drinking water all the time and having accidents. 🙁 I think the area is looking better!

    Roxanne Hawn - June 27, 2011

    Holy cow, Pam! I’m sorry to hear about Sadie’s bite, but I’m glad you’ve gotten her the care and meds she needs. I think the reason blood is telling is that A) I’m almost positive it wasn’t there even that morning and B) Usually what comes out is much more RANK if it’s been festering long = less blood, more puss.

Lynn - June 26, 2011

My dog has a lump that looks like that, we just found it late last night. I thought it was a spider bite when I found it. I hope it is I won’t be able to get her to the vet until Tuesday.

    Roxanne Hawn - June 27, 2011

    Oh, boy … Lynn, I hope everything turns out OK. While spider bites don’t seem as scary as snake bites, they can get really infected and cause a true emergency.

Merr - May 25, 2011

Keep us posted on Lilly’s recovery, Roxanne!

Diane @ To Dog With Love - May 24, 2011

OMD, poor Lilly, poor you! I hope Lilly is feeling better and that all is a-ok!

Betsy - May 24, 2011

I still can’t believe you found it while you were *in* the vet’s office. How many times has one wished for an instant diagnosis to alleviate the worry that goes along with all these lumps and bumps?!

Kristine - May 24, 2011

That is so frightening. You both have been through so much in the past year. You’d think Lily would have dealt with enough already to be good for the rest of her life!

As you mentioned, thank goodness you were in the clinic at the time. That’s one lucky break at least. I hope the treatment works and that surgery will be avoided!

Kathy (Your Holistic Dog) - May 24, 2011

Wow. I just had to come back and see what that lump was. Any idea what kind of spider this was? I hope Lily is feeling better, and it’s great you noticed it when you did. You’re doing everyone a favor writing about this experience.

    Roxanne Hawn - May 24, 2011

    Kathy … there isn’t really a way to know what kind of spider this was. We do have neighbors (human ones) who ended up in the hospital with brown recluse bites, but there really is no way to know, unless you see the spider … which we didn’t.

    Thanks, Kristine (and everyone). It has only been 5 months since our last veterinary emergency with Lilly and the technicolor vomit. She certainly keeps us on our toes and wreaks havoc on my budget.

    I know, Betsy? What are the odds that I’d find the lump right there in the exam room. Crazy. Glad I did though. Saved us the ER bill.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell - May 24, 2011

Oh, I don’t like spiders and snakes. 🙂 I’m sure Lilly will be fine, but it is scary.

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