Spiders of the family Theraphosidae occur throughout most tropical regions of the world. There have only been three case reports of bites by these spiders in Australia. The aim of this study was to describe the clinical effects of bites by Australian theraphosid spiders in both humans and canines. Cases of spider bite were collected by the authors over the period January 1978-April 2002, either prospectively in a large study of Australian spider bites, or retrospectively from cases reported to the authors. Subjects were included if they had a definite bite and had collected the spider. The spiders were identified by an expert arachnologist to genus and species level where possible. There were nine confirmed bites by spiders of the family Theraphosidae in humans and seven in canines. These included bites by two Selenocosmia spp. and by two Phlogiellus spp. The nine spider bites in humans did not cause major effects. Local pain was the commonest effect, with severe pain in four of seven cases where severity of pain was recorded. Puncture marks or bleeding were the next most common effect. In one case the spider had bitten through the patient's fingernail. Mild systemic effects occurred in one of nine cases. There were seven bites in dogs (Phlogellius spp. and Selenocosmia spp.), and in two of these the owner was bitten after the dog. In all seven cases the dog died, and as rapidly as 0.5-2h after the bite. This small series of bites by Australian theraphosid spiders gives an indication of the spectrum of toxicity of these spiders in humans. Bites by these spiders are unlikely to cause major problems in humans. The study also demonstrates that the venom is far more toxic to canines.