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THE BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER (Loxascelidae, Loxosceles Reclusa)


Tessa (CH GG's Classic Contessa) is 11 yrs & 9 months old. I put her out in the kennel for the day because I was going out of town for my son's wedding. Upon my return I went out to feed my girl and noticed her leg was extremely swollen, especially in the hock area. She would not put weight on it, and I had to help her get up to walk her into the house. I applied ice packs to reduce the swelling, but they didn't help much. The only noticeable symptom was a small blisterlike area on the hock joint. She had a slightly elevated temperature and was extremely weak in the rear limbs. She experienced nausea and had increased thirst.

The next morning the leg was still swollen. I checked for tender areas on the leg, but found none. However, there was a small black patch on the callous of the hock about the size of a dime. Previous experience taught me that I was dealing with a spider bite.

I took her to the vet and he confirmed this. Unfortunately, antivenom for Brown Recluse Spiders is not available. The vet suggested if she were younger, we could put her on high doses of cortisone, but he did not recommend it for her because of her age. He did put her on 1500 mg of Cephalexin 3 times a day to prevent secondary infections until the wound was healed because it would leave a large gapping hole. He also told me to wash the wound at least 3 times a day with a water and betadine solution. He told me when the necrotic tissue fell off, to flush the inside of the wound out with this same solution and keep it wrapped to keep it clean.

The patch had grown to the size of a half dollar. It was completely black as the area became necrotic (tissue died).

The area around the necrotic tissue began to weep.

Necrotic tissue began to slough off.

Necrotic tissue had sloughed off leaving a huge gapping hole the size of a half dollar which revealed the healthy tissue and muscles in the leg beneath. Wound is draining a pussey substance. I continue flushing out the wound with water and betadine solution. Tessa is still experiencing extreme thirst.

Swelling is greatly reduced. The wound is still open and draining. I continue to clean and wrap the area. Tess is now bearing weight on the limb and seems stronger in both rear legs. Her appetite is coming back and she is eating small quantities several times a day.

This is the second spider bite on one of my dogs within the past 2 months (both occuring in the kennel). After the first episode I stripped all bedding and sprayed the kennel with a pyrethrin based chemical. Apparently, it had little effect. This week I fumigated with a stronger chemical that was supposed to have a stronger affect. I used an actual fumigator that contained Diazinon as it is supposed to leave residual. Directions called for 1 fumigator in 1000 ft of space and leave the area closed for 3 hrs. I used THREE fumigators in the same amount of space and left it for FOUR hours before airing out the kennel.

One of these I placed in the attic area. When I opened the kennel doors and windows I was astonished that spiders had come out of the woodwork but some were still ALIVE.

Monday morning a professional exterminator is coming to eradicate the beasts. I was informed that nothing you could buy over the counter was strong> enough to kill out the entire population since Brown Recluse Spiders hid in the woodwork and you couldn't get direct contact. Plus the fact that the chemicals had little to no effect on the egg sacks. A professional exterminator will come two to three times a month to take care of the new hatchlings.

About the Brown Recluse Spider
The Brown Recluse Spider is found mainly in the southern and Midwestern states. The spider is not aggressive. Most bites occur when putting on clothing or shoes not used for long periods of time. Or in a dog's case, when they step or lay on the spider. Brown Recluse Spiders are so named because they usually live in undisturbed areas; preferring to be "recluse".

Severity of reaction to the bite depends on the amount of venom injected and individual sensitivity to it. Bite effects may be nothing at all, immediate or delayed. Some may not be aware of the bite for 2 to 8 hours, whereas others feel a stinging sensation usually followed by intense pain if there is a severe reaction. A small white blister usually rises at the bite site surrounded by a large congested and swollen area. Within 24 to 36 hours, a systemic reaction may occur with the victim characterized by restlessness, fever, chills, nausea, weakness and joint pain. The affected area enlarges, becomes inflamed and the tissue is hard to the touch. The spider's venom contains an enzyme that destroys cell membranes in the wound area with affected tissue gradually sloughing away, exposing underlying tissues. Within 24 hours, the bite site can erupt into a "volcano lesion" (a hole in the flesh due to damaged, gangrenous tissue). The open wound may range from the size of an adult's thumbnail to the span of a hand. The sunken, ulcerating sore may heal slowly up to 6 to 8 weeks. Full recovery may take several months and scarring may remain. Plastic surgery and skin grafts are sometimes required.

Fatalities are rare, but bites are most dangerous to children, elderly and those in poor physical condition.

First Aid
If bitten, try to collect the spider, if possible, for positive identification and get medical attention immediately (contact your physician, hospital and/or Poison Information Center). Apply antiseptic solution to prevent infection and ice packs to relieve local swelling and pain directly to the bite area.

An effective antivenom is not generally available. The physician will usually administer high doses of cortisone-type hormones to combat hemolysis and other systemic complications. A report suggests that treatment with dapsone (a drug used mainly for leprosy) may reduce the degree of tissue damage.

End of Donna's Report

There is a most excellent and detailed write up about the Brown Recluse Spider at this site:

URBAN ENTOMOLOGY by Walter Ebeling Chapter 9, part 1 Pests Attacking Man and His Pets

Scroll down to Brown Recluse Spider, Loxosceles reclusa Gertsch and Mulaik (Loxoscelidae).

Details on the recluse description, appearance of their webs, their life cycle, where they hide, symptoms and necrotic description of the bites are included.

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