Learning to Live With Pets

What Every Cat Owner Needs To Know About Brown Recluse Spider Bites

If your cat has an unexplained sore or wound, it's important that you figure out what caused it. Your cat may have been bitten by a brown recluse spider. If so, he will need immediate veterinarian care to combat the venom that may be circulating through his bloodstream. The venom can cause organ failure and death. Here's what you need to know.

Symptoms That May Appear If Your Cat Has Been Bitten

When a brown recluse bites your cat, you may not notice any symptoms right away. In fact, your cat may not even notice that he's been bitten. However, sometimes there is some local pain and stinging. You may not see the first signs of the bite until about 6-8 hours later when your cat may scratch, rub or lick a certain spot continuously and never find relief for the itching.

A lesion with a dark scab in the middle will form at the bite site. This is a necrotic ulcer which means the soft tissues surrounding the spider bite are dead and/or dying from the venom. Your cat may be nauseous and have joint pain. Of course, since your cat cannot tell you verbally what is wrong, you'll have to watch him closely. Does he have a normal appetite? Does he seem to walk gingerly or does he avoid walking whenever possible?

If the venom reaches the bloodstream, it can cause many serious problems such as renal failure and problems with blood coagulation. This means the blood will no longer clot, which could cause your cat to bleed to death.

Cats are Susceptible to Brown Recluse Spider Bites

Cats love hiding and digging in dark places… the same types of places that brown recluse spiders make their homes. Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive. They don't go looking for people and animals to take a bite out of. But, they will bite when they are scared for their own safety. The spiders like dark, cozy areas. An example of a favorite place is a box full of clothing inside a storage room or closet. The area underneath a porch is another favorite place. If your cat likes to sleep or dig around in these types of places, he may have been bitten.

Diagnosis by Veterinarian Is Important

As was said earlier, venom from a brown spider bite can kill if the cat is not treated in a timely manner. It is important to take your cat to the veterinarian for a diagnosis, especially if he has an unexplained necrotic ulcer, sore or wound. Tell your veterinarian that your cat may have been bitten by a brown recluse spider. There are specific blood tests that can be done to determine if venom from the brown recluse spider is present in the blood. However, this test is typically not done unless there is a strong suspicion.

Treatment May Require Hospitalization

Depending on the severity of the wound and whether or not venom was found in the blood, treatment may require hospitalization. Your cat may need intravenous fluid and cold compresses to the wound for a mild case. Severe cases may involve blood transfusions and surgeries. The dead tissues may need to be surgically removed. You can expect your cat to be hospitalized. While your cat is recovering from his brown recluse spider bite, it's a good idea to go through your home and find all the areas where brown recluse spiders may be living. Be sure to wear protective gloves and clothing, because their bites are poisonous to humans as well. Don't reach into any boxes blindly. 

Be sure to keep a close eye on your cat if he tends to sleep and hide in dark places and boxes. He may be bitten by a brown recluse spider, which may cause him to become seriously ill. If he does show signs of a bite, take him to a vet clinic, like Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care, for diagnosis and treatment.