Finding a veterinarian who specializes in exotics, particularly arachnids, can be quite a challenge. It’s essential that you learn how to tell if your spider is sick, and it’s also very helpful to put together a small spider first aid kit. Here are a few handy tips to help get you started.
How to Tell Your Tarantula’s Ill
Spiders live a pretty simple existence. They tend to spend a great deal of their time just sitting around and contemplating whatever it is that spiders contemplate. Or staring. Or maybe they’re sleeping – it’s hard to say whether they’re awake or not, considering they have no eyelids. Either way, they tend to sit around a lot.
As with most pets, a good rule of thumb is to watch your spider for any form of deviation from normal routine – Most animals (and arachnids) are creatures of habit and their behaviors tend follow the same patterns, day in and day out. A deviation from the norm can mean illness or some sort of stress-inducing factor is present. For instance, if your spider normally just sits underneath a log in his tank, there is probably a good reason if he suddenly begins to prowl all around his tank. Taking note of your pet’s “normal” behavior and watching for deviations in its daily pattern can help grant you a clue that something may be wrong with your pet tarantula.
Leg positions are another good way of determining something may be wrong with your spider. As most tarantula owners know, spider agitation can be noted by the spider rearing back and raising its front legs into the air. Spiders can also use their legs to “kick” the little hairs in their abdomen onto predators. Those are agitated spiders. Sick spiders, on the other hand, will commonly curl their legs in underneath themselves. Some may also walk down on their feet, in a more flat-footed movement, rather than up on their toes like normal. If you spend time with your pet, you’re sure to see subtle differences with their various moods.
Another good sign that your spider may not be feeling up to par is his appetite. If your spider seems to be uninterested in feeding, or if his appetite is decreased, it’s a good chance that he’s not feeling very well.
Molting – Don’t Panic!
We were still new to spiders when my daughter came rushing into my room, tears streaming down her face. “Something’s wrong with Squishy,” she choked out, “Can you come look at her?”
Sure enough, looking into the tank, I saw my daughter’s new pet laying on her back with her legs up in the air. Knowing that this is usually the sign of something dy– moving across the Rainbow Bridge — I explained to my daughter to expect the worst in the gentlest words possible. I had no clue how to help her 8-legged friend and was at a total loss. Had she fed the spider? Did it have water? Had she dropped it? I had no clue.
Fortunately, doing some quick research, I was able to discover that this was what spiders did when they were molting. No need for panic…All was well and 15 minutes later (as my daughter dried her eyes), Squishy emerged from her spent skin and went on about her way, furry new skin and all. So, for the record, if your spider’s on his/her back, give them time. Molting is a long and risky process – moving or disturbing your tarantula during this time could severely injure them.
Spidey’s First Aid Kit
For a well-stocked Tarantula First Aid Kit, you will need the following:
– Household super glue
– Paper towels
– A pin or needle
– Clean and empty butter/margarine/deli cup large enough for your spider to sit comfortably in the bottom
– Clean, fresh water
Spiders are very susceptible to injuries and, due to their nature, will bleed out if they are injured. Possessing no coagulants in their white-blue blood that will staunch the flow, it’s very easy for a tarantula to bleed to death if he is dropped or otherwise injured. For this reason, having a tube of super glue handy may very well save your spider’s life. Even abdominal ruptures can be mended with a quick application of super glue over the wound. It’s not an easy thing to get a spider to sit still for, but it’s definitely worth the effort. I’ve also been told that products like Nu Skin can also help to create a bandage over the injury and stop the tarantula from bleeding to death. Personally, I still recommend super glue – it’s easier to apply to a small area and works very quickly.
Dehydration is a common problem in sick or injured spiders. Dehydrated spiders can be diagnosed, usually, by restlessness, a shrunken abdomen, reluctance to eat and, sometimes, he will curl his legs underneath himself. Just be wary that you don’t mistake dehydration for molting – be sure to read about both. Fortunately, dehydration is usually quite easy to fix.
First off, you will need to get out your butter tub and, using the needle or pin, punch several small holes into the container. It may not seem like much, but it will allow your spider to breath, while allowing his new bed to become more humid and comfortable for him.
Next, take your paper towel and soak it thoroughly, before folding and setting it in the bottom of your dish. You will want it to contain water for your spider to drink, but not so much that the water will interfere with the lungs on the bottom of your tarantula’s abdomen, allowing him to breath while he feeds. Putting too much water in your spider’s tank is not only frightening to him, but can cause him to drown very easily. The main idea is to have the paper towel wet enough that he can drink the water off of it, then replace your lid on the top of the butter container. Make sure that it’s secure and place your tarantula somewhere quiet, where he can rest for a couple of days. Ideally, he will do best around 78-82 F while he’s re-hydrating. Please note that most tarantulas recover within 24 hours, but more extreme cases of dehydration may require a longer stay in the small cup before being returned to their normal tank.
Improper Molting and How to Treat It
Spiders molt their exoskeletons fairly regularly as they grow. As mentioned previously, it can be rather shocking to the new (and ill informed) pet owner. Molting spiders will grow darker in color, become more aggressive in behavior and will often stop eating a good week before they start the process. Finding your spider laying on its back with its legs curled up can be startling, but never fear. In most cases, tarantulas will molt their exoskeletons without ado.
On occasion, however, some will encounter troubles molting. This is often seen when there is not enough humidity present within the tank. Most commonly, this will result in a molt that does not free itself completely from a tarantula’s leg. For this reason, you will want to increase the humidity in his tank for a couple of days and then, carefully taking your tweezers, slowly and gently remove the molt from the affected limb. You may notice that the limb may not look like the rest but, in most cases, the leg will regrow just fine, next molting. Failing to remove the old molt, however, can make the next molting equally difficult on your spider.
Handling a Sick Spider
Please be warned that, much like any sick or injured animal, arachnids that are not feeling well can be more aggressive than usual. It’s best to handle them as little as possible but, if you must, use the end of a pencil to lightly touch the backs of your spider’s feet to gently urge him forward to a place where you can work with him. Do not try to just reach in and pick up an injured or ill spider, as it could result in them kicking hairs onto your hand or even a bite. Use caution and patience – you don’t like to be fussed with when you’re sick either.
In summation, it’s best to find yourself a quality exotics veterinarian that deals in arachnids. However, one can’t always make it to the vet’s office in time. This first aid kit may grant your spider valuable minutes and help ensure that he can make it to a veterinarian for further treatment.
http://www.tarantulas.com/index.html – Basic Tarantula Care
http://www.ehow.com/video_4936511_tarantula-molting.html – Tarantula Molting
http://petcaretips.net/feeding-handling-tarantula-pets.html – Tarantula Care and Emergency Tips