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CAT scan and lots of TLC for sick tarantula

CATONSVILLE, Md. -- A CAT scan was done Friday on a patient with a habit of showing her fangs and shooting barbed hairs from her rump. The patient, Goliath tarantula No. 79011, is suffering from an infection.

"She has a robust, loose personality," said Sandy Barnett, senior herpetologist at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. "I really hope we can help her out."Giving a CAT scan to a spider is not a regular event, but this spider is special and worthy of saving, say those who know her.

Although not rare, her value is in what she can teach doctors about the medical care of tarantulas in captivity.

A member of the largest spider species in the world, No. 79011 underwent a second CAT scan Friday to check on a nasty infection oozing from her side. The prognosis wasn't good. Doctors are planning to perform a lifesaving operation next week to try to save the eight-legged creature.

No. 79011, weighing in at a hefty 2 1/2 ounces, is the size of a salad plate, has dark brown hair and a turret of eyes atop a flat head.

She also has an abscess the size of a quarter that is causing her to lose fluid. Instead of walking on the tips of her toes like a ballerina, she's down at the heel -- a sure sign of trouble.

"They use water pressure to keep their legs up," Barnett said. "This one is walking a little flat-footed."