You may be able to control what your dogs eat, how they behave, where they go, and so on but, we can’t control where they put their feet and nose in. It, therefore, comes as no shocker when you are faced with the issue of ant bites on dogs.
Dr. Howard J. Small of Forest Lake Animal Clinic says dogs’ allergic reactions to ant bites venom can lead to swelling and pain, or more severe anaphylactic reactions that may even lead to death.”
There are various species of ants: some ants can sting, some can bite, and there are many species that can effortlessly do both. Results from either a bite or sting can range from mild to potentially life-threatening.
Thankfully, there are numerous measures you can take to shield your dogs from ant bites. In this post, I’ll explain how you can recognize ant bites on your dogs and, of course, how to treat them.
If you want to be better at identifying the damages of these creatures, you automatically want to know the species that threaten your canine friends.
Which Species of Ants are Dangerous to Dogs?
First on the list are fire ants. A fire ant, also known as “Red Imported Fire Ant” (RIFA), is one of the most common ant species attacking dogs. They are native to South America, and it is very easy to recognize them because of their reddish-brown color.
A painful sting from this insect burns like a fire, hence the name. This is all too familiar for many southeastern states in the U.S., like Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida.
Fire ants have two-segmented antennal clubs and two nodes on their petioles. Telling a fire ant different from the regular ants we see in our homes can be tricky because Fire ants and house ants look very similar.
A typical colony of fire ants consists of hundreds of workers. But within a year, a colony can increase to 10,000 workers if they can have their way. In fact, what makes these insects so threatening is their ability to grow exponentially.
The venom present in their stings should be your major concern about if your furry friends secure a bite from a fire ant. Therefore, the instant pain your dogs experience should be the least of your problems.
When other ant species bite, they usually inject formic acid on the target area. But in fire ants’ cases, they bite to get a good grip. They then sting from their abdomens, releasing a toxic alkaloid venom capable of triggering allergic reactions in your dogs.
Carpenter ants come next on the list. They have huge and powerful jaws that can chew through wood. It goes without saying what damages these ants can cause to your dog’s skin.
It’s uncommon for carpenter ants to bite your dogs; however, they will bite when they feel threatened. Their bites can be very painful and piercing, followed by an irritation feeling like a bee sting. But the good thing is they don’t transmit any diseases.
Bullet ants are a tropical rainforest ant species. According to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, their sting is the most painful. Further, entomology experts equate the experience to being shot with a bullet or walking on hot charcoal. If you must know, Bullet ants earned their name from their bullet sting.
The good news is, these ants rarely attack dogs. They prefer not to get involved with any animal. What they like to have on their menu are strayed tiny arthropods and nectar. However, you don’t want to provoke them because they won’t hesitate to bite you if you do.
What Do Ant Bites Look Like on a Dog?
Ant bites and stings can occur anywhere on your dogs’ bodies. But their feet and noses are the two areas particularly susceptible. Injuries to the snout or face can be excruciatingly painful because swellings in these regions are more likely to cause breathing problems.
Not every ant bite necessitates visiting a veterinarian. But there’s a possibility; it majorly depends on your dogs’ reactions to the venom.
Symptoms of ant bites and stings include:
- Lameness (your dog suddenly holds its leg, sometimes shaking and flicking it)
- redness between the toes
- licking or chewing at the site of the bite
In the case of a severe, anaphylactic reaction, your dog may suffer from:
- respiratory distress
- pale gums
Dr. Patrick Mahaney of Los Angeles, California, claims that “most ant bites cause localized pain and swelling but rarely have major whole-body effects.” Ants crawl on animals at the point where a body part touches the floor; therefore, ants can bite standing pets on their paws.
Ant bites usually appear as red, raised sores, but they can be difficult to notice on areas of a dog’s body covered with thick fur.
It is a different ball game in the case of fire ants. This invasive species of ant found in the South and Southwest should be of particular concern. Fire ants are venomous insects that are very dangerous to your dogs.
A fire ant bite can cause unyielding pain and swell at the sting site, plus the anaphylactic reactions highlighted above. They commonly strike in large groups, resulting in multiple stings capable of killing small animals.
Treating Ant Bites on Dogs
The first thing to do is removing your dog from the field to avoid further bites. Put on some gloves to protect yourself, and pick or brush any remaining ants from your dog. It’s a good idea to look for more ants on your dog, particularly in areas between the paws, face, eyes, and ears.
Do not forget to keep an eye on your dog’s overall health. Take your dog to the nearest emergency clinic as soon as you observe any symptoms of anaphylactic reactions (vomiting, fatigue, collapse, respiratory failure, etc.).
After that, examine your dog’s skin. “You can administer over-the-counter Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to your dog if they keep scratching. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that will lessen the venom’s adverse effects.
But before proceeding, consult your veterinarian to see if this drug is right for your pet and to learn more about dosing instructions.
Simple ant bites on dogs that do not cause a severe reaction are usually treatable at home. You can use water and baking soda to make a simple and relaxing paste. Simply mix one tablespoon of baking soda and add enough water to form a spreadable paste.
Many veterinarians also suggest applying a 50-50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to ant bites three times a day for several days with a cotton ball. This technique works for other insect bites too.
Some dogs, like humans, are more vulnerable to ant bites and have a stronger reaction to them. If your dog’s symptoms become concerning, seek medical care and advice from your veterinarian. If the response is more serious, a trip to the veterinarian can result in the prescription of antibiotics and steroids.
The steroid treatment reduces the swelling and discomfort caused by the bite, while antibiotics care for the secondary skin infection many dogs acquire due to their licking.
Although I wouldn’t recommend using commercial insect repellents meant for humans on your dogs, there are some natural alternatives if your dog will be spending a lot of time outdoors. These include lemongrass oil, citronella oil, and cinnamon oil. You can use all these oils as insect repellants, according to Small. But remember to consult your veterinarian first to see if these are appropriate for your dogs.
Other pet-specific insect repellents are available, but they do not guarantee that your dog will not be bitten or stung. In the end, the best thing you can do is keep an eye on your dogs while they’re outside, steer them away from ant-infested areas, and respond quickly if you find a problem.
Below are some of the highlights of preventive measures you can take to avoid ant bites on your dogs:
- keep your dogs indoors
- cover all your foodstuff
- ant-proof your dogs’ serving plates
- keep the area around your dogs’ serving plates clean
- equip your pet with fipronil
Dogs generally enjoy playing outdoors and can encounter ant bites as a result of their explorations. This is not to say ant bites on dogs won’t happen should your dogs stay indoors every second of the day. As a result, the best thing you can do is learn what steps to take in the event of a bite.
The first thing you can do is relocate your pet to a safer location far away from ants. Should your dogs be bitten, get rid of the tenacious ants using a brush or comb. Giving your dogs an oatmeal bath will also help to relieve discomfort and prevent bacteria from spreading.
However, if your dog has an ant venom allergy, you can give them a more potent drug like Benadryl. But before prescribing any drug, you should always consult with your veterinarian.