There is a widespread belief that “Daddy-Longlegs is one of the most poisonous spiders, but their fangs are too short of biting humans.” But what about dogs? Are Daddy Long Legs dangerous to dogs?
And, more importantly, can Daddy Long Legs bite dogs? No, Daddy long Legs do not bite dogs, and despite being a bit of a nuisance, they do not pose any danger at all. In fact, Daddy Long Legs are neither poisonous nor venomous for any mammal. Therefore, if your dog has a spider bite, the Daddy Long Legs in your house are not the culprit.
In this article, we will talk about Daddy Long Legs and the potential dangers they pose to dogs. We will also cover some of the most toxic spiders for pets, and finally, give helpful tips on how to treat spider bites in dogs.
WHAT ARE DADDY LONG LEGS?
Describing what Daddy Long Legs are is hard because the name is popularly given to three different creatures. Therefore, to answer this section’s main question, we will give a brief description of each creature carrying this popular name.
Daddy Long Legs creature number 1: The Cellar Spider (Pholcus phalangioides)
The other name for the Daddy Long Legs or Cellar spider is Skull Spider. And with such a terrifying name, one would expect rather dangerous creatures, hence the mentioned popular belief.
So, to debunk the myth, the Cellar spider venom is not dangerous at all for dogs and humans. In fact, it is so weak it could not even harm other insects. The only part that is true about the belief mentioned above is the shortness of their fangs. However, this does not matter as Daddy Long Legs rarely want to bite humans and dogs in the first place.
Anyway, if the Daddy Long Legs Spider decides to miraculously bite a dog, despite minor local inflammation, there will not be any consequences.
Although not dangerous for dogs and humans, Daddy Long Legs Spiders are extremely dangerous for other insects. This is actually good news for dogs and people. Namely, because of their unique hunting style, Daddy Long Legs are efficient in trapping and killing other spiders and insects that are hazardous, including Funnel Weavers, Huntsmen, Black Widows, and Redback Spiders.
Daddy Long Legs creature number 2: The Harvestman Arachnid (Opiliones family)
The Harvestman Arachnid got the nickname Daddy long Legs because of its incredibly long legs, especially in proportion with its small and rounded body. Interestingly, despite the name, this creature is not a spider at all (they have no venom and no silk glands). In fact, it is much closer to the mites family than to spiders.
The Harvestman Arachnid or the Harvester is not dangerous because, as mentioned, it has no venom glands and does not produce venom. As for the biting part, its mouthparts have a very small claw meaning they are not capable of inflicting bites. Even if they manage to take a small nip, the victim would not feel a thing.
Daddy Long Legs creature number 3: The Crane Fly (Tipulidae family)
The Crane fly got the moniker name Daddy Long Legs because it looks like a giant mosquito. Although called a fly, this creature is actually a specific type of spider capable of flying. However, except for looking scary and rather big, there is nothing dangerous about the Crane fly.
Let’s explain why this Daddy Long Legs creature is not hazardous. First, it does not have glands for secreting and producing venom. Second, if it did make venom, it would be unable to insert it inside the victim as it does not have mouthparts designed for biting and stinging. The only thing the Crane fly can do is suck nectar from flowers.
ARE DADDY LONG LEGS POISONOUS TO DOGS?
No, Daddy Long Legs are not poisonous to dogs. To ensure there is no confusion, let’s explain what poisonous means. Poisonous means toxic if consumed or ingested. Therefore, for a spider to be classified poisonous, it would have to exert toxic effects after being ingested by a dog. In these terms, there are no truly poisonous spiders.
ARE DADDY LONG LEGS VENOMOUS?
No, Daddy Long Legs are not venomous. So, let’s explain what venomous means and how it is different from poisonous. Venomous spiders exert their toxic effect through biting. They secrete venom, which is then injected under the victim’s skin via their fangs. There are many venomous spiders, but Daddy Long Legs are not one of them.
WHAT SPIDERS ARE DANGEROUS TO DOGS?
There are over 30.000 different spider species in the world, and as scary as it sounds, most of them are venomous. However, not all venomous spiders pose a danger to dogs because of two reasons:
- Reason number 1: They do not produce significant amounts of venom to harm a dog-sized mammal.
- Reason number 2: They have small fangs and cannot pierce the dog’s skin in order to inject the venom.
From a medical standpoint, there are two important groups of spiders as they both produce significant amounts of venom and pose the mouthparts necessary for injecting the venom. These medically important spider groups are:
Group number 1: Widow Spiders (Latrodectus spp.) Representative: The Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus mactans)
Widow spiders live in temperate and tropical areas. In the United States, there are five different Widow Spiders, but as mentioned, the Black Widow is the most notable one. This is because these spiders are aggressive and known to attack even when not provoked.
The female Black Widows are much larger and consequently much more dangerous. They are either grey or black with a characteristic orange to red hourglass-shaped mark on the belly. Immature Black Widows do not have these hallmark color patterns, but they are still very dangerous.
Group number 2: Recluse spiders (Loxosceles spp.) Representative: The Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa)
Recluse spiders can be found in all dark and warm places in the world. In the United States alone, there are six different Recluse species, but the most dangerous spider is the Brown Recluse Spider.
Same as with the previous group, the females are larger and more venomous than males. Also, they feature unique markings. Namely, their body color ranges from yellow to brown, and they have a violin-shaped mark on the back.
Unlike the Black Widow, the Brown Recluse Spider is not naturally aggressive and will bite only if threatened. For example, this spider will bite in defense if the dog steps on it (wearing booties when hiking is helpful) or plays with it.
CLINICAL MANIFESTATION OF SPIDER ENVENOMATION IN DOGS
The clinical signs and symptoms following venomous spider bites in dogs depend on the exact spider species. However, here are some of the most commonly observed and reported signs:
- Pain and inflammation at the bite site
- Anxiety, distress, and restlessness
- Joint pain and fever
- Vomiting and abdominal tenderness
- Muscle cramps and seizures
- Muscle stiffness and paralysis
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Arrhythmias and blood pressure changes.
If your dog exhibits any of these signs, seeking immediate veterinary help is critical and often the difference between life and death.
HOW DO YOU TREAT A SPIDER BITE ON A DOG?
Same as with snake bites, the exact course of actions following a spider bite depends on the type of spider inflicting the bite and the dog’s size. In the best-case scenario, it is only the bite site that needs cleansing, while worst-case scenario, the dog might need to be hospitalized for proper stabilizations.
Determining on your own which approach is best can be hard because the spider is rarely found, and even if found, it does not mean you will be able to properly identify it. Therefore, to ensure your dog’s safety and wellbeing, it is best to take your dog to the nearest vet clinic.
If you can see the spider you believe is the culprit, taking a picture is highly advisable. Once the vet knows who inflicted the bite, he/she will be able to properly tailor the treatment plan.
Usually, the general approach to managing spider bites and envenomation in dogs includes several steps.
Step number 1: Cleaning the bite site
First, the vet will examine the bite site and thoroughly clean the area around the bite. The cleaning part is actually something you can do on your own while arranging the vet visits. All you need are water and some mild soap to superficially clean the area. Then, if necessary, the vet will perform a more thorough cleaning or disinfecting.
Step number 2: Managing the pain
Spider bites are painful, and providing proper relief is critical. Depending on the pain level, the vet may use non-steroid or steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, or in more severe cases, opt for stronger pain relief and use a combination of muscle relaxants and opioids like tramadol or morphine.
Step number 3: Antibiotic therapy
Depending on the spider involved in the biting incidents, infections are possible. To prevent serious infections, the vet will use antibiotics. The antibiotics can be applied in the form of ointments topically over the bite wound. If necessary, the vet will prescribe oral antibiotics or give them in the form of injections.
Step number 4: Tetanus shots
Dogs that have never received tetanus shots before in their lives will be getting a tetanus antitoxin. Tetanus shots in dogs come with certain risks and side effects, meaning the vet will have to carefully outweigh the pros and the cons before deciding what to do.
Step number 4: Oxygen support
Severe spider bites may compromise breathing and cause a lack of proper oxygen supply. In such cases, oxygen support will be provided until the dog is stabilized and capable of breathing on its own.
Step number 5: Intravenous fluids
Administration of intravenous fluids is a must when dealing with any form of intoxication or envenomation. In such cases, intravenous fluids have several purposes. First, they help flush the toxin out of the organism. Second, they allow faster distribution of the administered medications. Third, they keep the dog hydrated and nourished.
Step number 6: Antivenin administration
This step is listed as last, not because it is least important but because the identity of the culprit spider is rarely known. However, in case you can provide a picture of the actual spider, applying an antivenin is of huge help.
Of course, it goes without saying that there are no available antivenin options for all spider bites. Luckily, there is an antivenin for one of the most dangerous spiders – the black widow. Plus, it is very fast-acting and can result in significant clinical improvement only 30 minutes after being administered.
SUMMING UP: THE MYTH OF DADDY LONG LEGS BITES ON DOGS
Daddy Long Legs, all three forms of them, may look creepy and dangerous, but they are harmless creatures. The only hazard they pose is that they can be annoying for both you and your dog. Therefore, it is safe to say that the dangers of Daddy Long Legs are nothing more than an urban myth.
However, it should be well-noted that there are many dangerous spiders for dogs. If you find a spider bite on your dog, it is advisable to seek immediate veterinary attention. The sooner you initiate treatment, the better the outcome of the situation.