Docs advise handling tarantulas with care, safety glasses after pet shoots hairs into owner’s eye.

A British man is still suffering discomfort nearly a year after his pet tarantula shot some of its sharp hairs into his eye, prompting doctors to warn pet owners about the dangers of handling the hairy arachnids.

LiveScience reports that the quirky medical case began in February 2009 when the 29-year-old man visited a hospital in Leeds, England, complaining of red, watery, and light-sensitive eyes.

After antibiotics failed to clear up the irritation, doctors took a closer look and discovered “hair-like projections sticking into the cornea of the right eye,” according to LiveScience.

“When we looked at this guy’s cornea, the clear window covering the eye, we saw these little whitish spots and a little black hairy-like thing at the center of each,” Dr. Zia Carrim told LiveScience.

The patient then recalled an incident in which, while cleaning the tank of his Chilean Rose tarantula, the animal fired off a “mist of hairs” that hit him square in the face and eyes.

This is normal behavior for a threatened tarantula, according to LiveScience. The barbed hairs are called “urticating hairs” and are too small for doctors to remove. While treatment with topical steroids cleared the worst of the patient’s symptoms, he reported mild discomfort as recently as August, researchers announced Thursday.

Those who keep tarantulas as pets would do well to take proper precautions, Dr. Carrim told LiveScience.

“Avoid handling the tarantulas at close range. But, if they do handle them at close range, they should wear some type of eye protection,” Carrim said.

Original post:

Friday, January 1st, 2010, 2:36 PM