02 Dec Redback Spiders And Your Pets
Redback spiders (Latrodectus hasselti) tend to live in close association with people, but prefer dry, dark areas where they will not be disturbed. This means they are often found lurking in garden sheds and garages. The female redback spiders are most recognised, having slender black legs and a black to brown body the size of a large pea with a distinct red to orange stripe down the centre. Males are less boldly coloured, often light brown, and smaller in size (3-4mm) and are of less medical importance due to their much smaller fang size.
The venom contains α-latrotoxin which affects the nervous system and muscles. Many bites may be ‘dry-bites’ where no venom is injected, however a bite where venom is injected can be life-threatening for a small animal. Early signs in small animals include vomiting, diarrhoea, pain, and restlessness. Progressive symptoms may include increasingly severe pain (which typically spreads away from the bite site), muscular cramping, agitation, an increased heart rate and increased blood pressure. Cats are particularly sensitive to the venom, and can then go on to develop paralysis, inability to breath, cardiac failure and death.
To avoid spider bites in pets, keep your shed and garage neat and tidy and avoid stacking items too close together, try to have these areas well-lit with natural light and don’t let your pets into these areas (sheds and garages often have other poisons so this is a good general rule for pet safety). Clean outdoor furniture and building eaves/verandas regularly to remove webs and spider sacs, pack away children’s toys that are not used regularly, take to the tip any items stored in yards that are not needed (e.g., tyres, old wood piles), clean up leaves and sticks and remove them from pet accessible areas. Many of these measures are also good for preventing snake bites too.
Pet insurance provides peace of mind and protection in the event that your pet is ever bitten or poisoned otherwise. Our platinum sponsor Bow Wow Meow for Pets is currently offering two months free pet insurance in the first year of coverage for Animal Poison Helpline followers. Visit bowwowinsurance.com.au/poisons and enter APH368 at checkout to take advantage of this offer.