Believe me when I tell you that spiders don't want to bite your dog. In fact, if given a choice, a spider would much rather avoid your dog then go to battle. After all, your dog does have the advantage when it comes to size! Unfortunately, if threatened, a spider will bite in order to defend itself and the health problems that often come hand in hand with spider bites are not pretty (and can be quite serious).

Fortunately, most spiders are not able to penetrate a dog's skin (they often have a difficult time getting past all the fur). This is good news for dog breeds with long hair! Dogs with short fur, such as Beagles and other hounds, have a better chance of actually being poisoned. If your four-legged friend is bitten by a spider it can take as little as thirty minutes for signs of distress to appear. Fever and shivering are two tell-tale signs that your dog has been bitten. If not treated immediately, your dog could go into shock or even develop paralysis. The symptoms will become worse as the poison spreads through your dog's body.

So what should you do? First of all, if possible, do not allow your dog to move! Walking, or god forbid running, will circulate the poison within your dog's body at a faster rate. The last thing you want is for the spider venom to travel to your dog's heart and or brain (if this happens, your dog's condition will quickly worsen). If possible, keep the area of your dog's body that was bitten BELOW heart level. For example, if your dog was bitten on the leg, keep his upper body at a higher level than his lower body. Next, wash the area with cold water and soap so that you remove any bacteria or venom that may be on the surface of the skin and around the bite. By doing this, you will greatly reduce the chance of a secondary infection.

Obviously, you will want to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. Have a friend go with you so that he or she can apply cold packs to the bite while traveling in the car (this will numb the area and help with pain. Cold packs also help to keep down swelling). Do not apply the cold pack directly to the skin. Place a wet cloth on the affected area and then apply the cold pack.

If your dog is severely allergic to spiders (or certain types of spiders) it is extremely important that you go to the veterinarian as soon as humanly possible. If the animal hospital that you normally visit is closed, take your dog the closest emergency hospital. If you have a dog, or any pet for that matter, it is a good idea to keep a list of the closest emergency animal hospitals (and their phone numbers) available at all times. Possible signs of severe allergic reactions include difficulty breathing, shock, extreme weakness or over-all collapse.

So what spiders are the most dangerous to your dog? Unfortunately, I found out the hard way! My adorable Beagle was doing her usual tracking and sniffing in the woods when she was bitten by a spider that is considered to be in the "Widow" family. Of course, my Beagle HAD to over-turn some trash that she found and in the process, disturbed Miss Widow's house. Well, Miss Widow was not happy and she happily chomped down on my Beagle's face. Widow spiders are considered to be the most common, yet deadly type of venomous spiders in the United States. I later found out that my dog was bitten by a Northern Widow (they love to live in wooded areas). I immediately took my Beagle to the vet and she was treated with all types of medication including an oral muscle relaxant (a widow spider's venom is a neurotoxin which can cause severe pain and muscle cramps). I am happy to say that she is alive and well and still enjoys long walks in the woods. Other types of Widow Spiders include the deadly Black Widow and the Western Black Widow. Another spider to be on the look-out for is the Brown Spider. There are at least ten different types of Brown Spiders (not good news for dog owners) however; the Brown Recluse is the most common. Brown spiders live in basements, under linens, and in dark corners. Though not as deadly as the wonderful Widow Spiders mentioned above, the Brown Spider can cause serious problems if it bites your canine. The venom of the Brown Spider causes the tissue that surrounds the bite to die and without prompt treatment, your dog could end up with a big, infected ulcer. In severe cases (and no treatment) the victim can also end up with a blood disorder.

Almost all of my friends walk their dogs in wooded areas. Most dog owners do not realize that their dog has been bitten by a spider until symptoms arise. If you walk your dog in wooded areas it is very important that you check your dog after each and every walk to make certain that they have not been bitten. It is also a good idea to check for ticks as well. When it comes to spider bites and dogs…it is very important to be pro-active and NOT wait until painful signs show up. Good luck and if possible avoid any and all arachnids! Woof!