Tarantulas don’t like to shake it on the dance floor. They are pretty much a poster boy image of an introvert who likes to mind their own business. But what if you see them shaking themselves? Are they in the mood to jive or is there anything serious?
It depends on when you have observed them shaking. Tarantulas can be observed to be ‘shaking’ or doing their ‘happy dance’ when they eat prey. It is often an activity to spin a web around their prey. When they are not eating and they are shaking, it could be a sign of the dyskinetic syndrome.
While their ‘happy dance’ is not a thing to be worried about, the dyskinetic syndrome is something you need to understand as a tarantula owner. We will cover everything on the topic to help you understand what is happening and what to do about it.
When Shaking Is Not A Problem
Tarantulas do not spin webs to trap their prey as other spiders do. They hide and ambush their prey.
The prey will be injected with venom and digestive fluid through the tarantula’s fangs. As tarantulas cannot chew and eat, their venom and digestive juices help them to liquefy the prey.
If the prey is small, the venom will take effect immediately and tarantula will start feasting on it. But when the prey is larger and a little stronger, they will have to wait for a while for the venom to work.
It is possible that the prey will try to move and even get away from the tarantula. This is why tarantula would jump around to coat the prey with digestive fluid as well as spin the web around it. This web will help the tarantula to keep the prey stable.
When the prey is trying to get away or melting, it is important that the prey is held in one place for the tarantula to ‘suck’ it all.
This whole activity can look like your tarantula is shaking and dancing. If you observe your tarantula shaking when they are eating and while they are behaving normally in all other areas, it is not a matter of concern.
Also, ‘shaking’ should not be confused with them attacking you with their urticating hair. They will shrug off a bunch of hair in your general direction to attack you.
Shaking due to stress
Another reason that is relatively harmless is shaking due to stress. We say relatively harmless because if it happens after re-housing your tarantula, for example, this is absolutely normal.
If this kind of shaking does not occur on a regular base, everything is fine. If it does, you might have to change your tank setup, leave your tarantula alone for a while, or remove anything that could stress your tarantula.
The video below shows how a tarantula shakes when he or she is stressed.
When Shaking Is A Problem
If you find your tarantula shaking, as if it is trying to shake off the sand from its legs – there can be a problem. Worse, if they are not able to stay stable and are convulsing, it is a serious problem that you cannot really help them with. Let’s explore more about the problem.
There are times when you will observe them shaking like this once and then never again. If that happens, you don’t have much to worry but you should inform your veterinarian about this happening.
There are not enough studies on why tarantulas convulse randomly without any possible cause. However, these incidences are on a rise and have been observed and discussed between many tarantula owners. It is also not particular to one species of tarantula.
These convulsions will start with them shaking a little as they walk. Each of their legs would start to tremble as they raise it up to walk. This would be slight but will eventually get worse.
It has lead to their unexplainable death. While this topic is yet to be thoroughly researched by scientists, we can look into a few factors to get a hint.
Can We Save Our Tarantula?
In the tarantula-keeping community, they often call this to be a symptom and not a disease. Many hobbyists often term this as a dyskinetic syndrome (abnormality or impairment of voluntary movement).
The difference between a disease and a syndrome is that – in disease, the causes are definitive whereas a syndrome is a set of symptoms with un-definitive causes.
On the other hand, some also argue that it is a singular symptom rather than a syndrome that could be aiming towards a particular unknown disease. In the end, everyone is trying to make a sense out of the reason why they could be at risk of losing their tarantula to unknown causes.
When they enter this phase of dyskinesia, they could be confused with dying immediately but they don’t. Tarantulas can live without food for months and even a year, but without water, they will die.
When their body movements are not in harmony with their will, they will not be able to drink water when and as they want. There is nothing you can do to help them, as your actions will make them startle and it will be a miserable state to witness.
Tarantulas are also sensitive to pesticides. It is important that you provide them a pesticide-free environment. Their water dish, substrate, or anything can contain a trace amount of pesticide. Also, if you are planning on spraying pesticides, keep them away from even its whiff.
Tarantula slings are the most vulnerable in this scenario. They only need a trace amount of pesticide to react to and die. Bigger and older tarantulas can somehow get over it.
In the end, the best you can do for them when they are convulsing is to admit them to Tarantula ICU. Sadly, they are not known to make it once they start with the symptoms.
The cause behind this is unknown but we should do everything in our power to make them feel safe under our care.
How Can You Make It Comfortable For Them?
The best thing to do would be to not startle them. Do not try to handle them or touch them until necessary.
They themselves would be feeling out of grip with their reality and would be sensing fear of not being able to use their body as they want.
There will be tremors in their limbs, as they proceed to do their normal activities. But as the tremors increase, they will be unable to do their intended activity – be it hunting, drinking water, or even walking straight.
For some, it will even get difficult to dig a burrow and hide as their limbs will not be in co-ordination to their will. Your tarantula will be feeling very scared, hence, it is best not to feed them as well.
Don’t get them any prey that might be able to damage them. They are as vulnerable at that time as they are when they molt.
You can get them smaller prey that is dead so that they can eat it at their own pace if possible. Make water available to them but make sure they may not drown while attempting to drink it.
Unfortunately, there is nothing more that you can do to save your tarantula. Some tarantula owners also choose to euthanize their little ones. Bid them goodbye and know that you did your best in making them feel comfortable for their departure.