When Creepy Crawlers Attack Your Pet

Published: December 13, 2017

Pet Insect Bite Academy Animal Hospital Greenwood Indiana

Academy Animal Hospital, Greenwood, Indiana

If your pet goes outdoors, they’re bound to have encounters with nature: snakes, spiders, ticks, skunks and more. Even an indoor pet can run across a venomous spider. 

Would you recognize the symptoms of a bite? Here are some tips for handling common threats.


Most snake and pet encounters happen in a flash, around rocky or wooded areas that make identifying the snake difficult. Venomous snakes like rattlesnakes and copperheads have bites that can kill a pet within minutes.

So if you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, don’t waste time hunting down the snake. Call your vet immediately.

The ASPCA Poison Control Center shares these tips for pet snake bite safety:

  • Keep snakes out of your yard by eliminating tall grass, brush and wood piles.
  • Always walk your pet on a leash.
  • Recognize snake bite symptoms: two holes in skin, tears in skin, swelling, bleeding, pain, dead tissue, lethargy, glassy eyes, shortness of breath.
  • If your pet is bitten: stay away from the snake, limit your pet’s activity, keep the bite below the heart, do NOT try to suck out venom. Never handle the snake, even if it looks dead. Seek help right away.

The advice for spiders is actually similar to snakes. Reduce risk around your home and yard by eliminating cluttered and brushy areas. The two most venomous U.S. spiders for pets (and humans) are the brown recluse and the black widow, both of which like hiding in dark spaces.

Unlike snake bites, symptoms of a spider bite may take hours or days to develop. Your pet likely won’t feel the initial bite. Pain will develop 2 to 6 hours later, and skin may begin to blister and fall off within 7 to 14 days. Death can occur in smaller pets, but most survive spider bites.

Seek a vet’s care if your pet develops spider bite symptoms like:

  • Intense itching
  • Persistent panting
  • Redness and swelling
  • Muscle twitching and cramping
  • Abdominal rigidity
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
Fleas, Ticks and Mites

There are so many kinds of mites, fleas, and ticks, vets group them into a category called external parasites. These bugs live in your pet’s hair, nose, and ears. They are not usually fatal, unless allowed to flourish.

Ticks are often noticeable and can be removed at home. Remove a tick with tweezers, pulling its entire mouth parts and body from your pet in one firm motion. If infection occurs at the bite site, contact your vet.

Other external parasite infestations can occur - and get worse - quickly. Each type of parasite has a specific treatment, so consult with your vet for expert help.


Around the yard, caterpillars are rather charming. After all, they turn into beautiful butterflies and moths! So it’s easy to forget that these critters can cause severe reactions for your pets.

The saddleback caterpillar, for example, has thousands of tiny spines that can become embedded in your pet’s mouth or skin. The puss caterpillar, which looks furry like a pussy cat, has hairs that give a painful sting.

Keep in mind that the same caterpillar that hurt your pet can hurt you too. Don’t handle it. Take a photo for your vet, if possible.


Maybe it’s not a bite or sting: Your dog got skunked! Home treatments for removing skunk odor usually work just fine. Don’t use water because the skunk’s spray is oily, and water will only spread it around further.

The Humane Society recommends a solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap. It can be used on dogs or cats.

Keep a close eye on your pet in the hours after being sprayed in case something worse develops, like respiratory distress. Call your veterinarian if your pet seems to have a rapid heartbeat, ragged breaths, sluggishness, or refusal to eat and drink.

When in Doubt, Give Us a Shout!

Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether your pet has had an encounter with a dangerous creature. If you’re not sure, contact Academy Animal Hospital and we’ll help you identify the issue and get your pet on the road to recovery.