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Ant Bites on Dogs: Signs, Treatment & Prevention

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Cocker Spaniel

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs are amazing animals, but just like us and other pets, they are also vulnerable to insect bites. Ants are one of the most common enemies of dogs. Ants are common in the outdoors but can also be found indoors, especially if there are loose foods around the house.

An ant bite can cause irritation and severe effects on your dog. Therefore, if you plan on having a poochie, or if you already have one, knowledge about an ant bite’s signs, the treatment, and prevention comes in handy. If you notice ant bites on your dog, wash the wounds, watch your dog for symptoms, and contact your veterinarian.

But it’s worth noting that not all types of ants are dangerous to your dog. Therefore, you should familiarize yourself with the kind of ants you should be scared of your dog once you notice them in your home.

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Which Type of Ants Are Dangerous for Dogs?

There are many species of the ant family. Most of these species are harmless to your dogs. However, you should be wary of the following ant species around your home, especially if you own a poochie.

Fire Ants

Fire Ants
Image Credit: Lilakaugummi, Pixabay

Fire ants originated in South America and are identified by their copper brown (Solenopsis invicta) or black color (Solenopsis richteri). They can be found mostly in the southeastern states in the US and Central and South America. They can be identified by their stinger. A fire ant colony consists of over a thousand workers, with each worker being a sixteenth to a quarter-inch in length.

Fire ants are the most dangerous type of ant species to your dogs. Why? Because they produce venom that causes an intense burning sensation once they bite. To date, anaphylaxis reactions have been reported in humans but not in pets.1 Fire ant venom is made of 95% water-insoluble alkaloid.

When the fire ant stings, it does so with its mandible, which locks onto its prey. It arches its body and then injects venom through the stinger located on the abdomen. On average, the fire ant stings 7-8 times, until the venom gland is empty. It rotates its body, which results in a circular pattern and pain and itching at the site.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ant
Image Credit: amwest97, Pixabay

If you live in a wooden home, then you may have encountered a carpenter ant. Carpenter ants are black and chew on wooden items.

Carpenter ants rarely bite unless they feel threatened. However, when they do, they cause severe pain and irritation to your dog.

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The 7 Signs of Ant Bites on Dogs

You cannot treat a bite if you are unsure of its cause or origin. If an ant has bitten your dog, you will notice the following signs and symptoms:

1. Shaking and flicking of the leg

As dogs are often on their feet, the ants are more likely to attack the leg. Therefore, you will notice your puppy holding up its leg, and it keeps shaking and flicking it.

2. Constant licking and scratching a body part

Image Credit: rachanon-cumnonchai, Shutterstock

Ants do not only attack the legs. They climb up the body and can attack anywhere. The face is a critical site, including the eyelids, eye surface, and nose or muzzle area.

An ant bite causes discomfort to the bitten area. The dog responds by constantly licking, scratching, and chewing the affected area to shake off the pain. You may also see them rubbing or pawing at their face.

3. Sores

As earlier established, a fire ant is the most dangerous ant species to your dog. Therefore, if it attacks your dog, you may notice a red, raised bump or a whitish to yellow fluid-filled pustule. The skin around the lesions may also look red and inflamed.

4. Anaphylactic reaction

Anaphylaxis refers to a life-threatening allergic reaction in your dog. Different ant species cause different reactions when they bite a pet.

Anaphylactic shock caused by fire ant stings has been described in people and could possibly occur in pets. However, this has not yet been reported. For instance, if your dog is allergic, a bite from a fire ant could trigger an anaphylactic reaction. If that happens, you will notice vomiting, weakness, respiratory difficulties, pale gums and collapse, among other signs.

5. Difficulties in breathing

dog breathing heavily
Image Credit: photosforyou, Pixabay

The fire ant venom could cause swelling of your dog’s muzzle and jaw area. If the airway is involved, your dog could develop difficulties in breathing.

6. Impaired mobility

Dogs are naturally active. You may be used to your dog jumping around in your house and the backyard. Therefore, once you notice that your pup is experiencing difficulties moving around, chances could be that it has been bitten by an ant, more so a fire ant.

7. Pain and swelling

If you notice a swelling and constant whimpering, yelping, and growling, your dog could be in pain from an ant bite.

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How To Treat Ant Bites On Dogs

Blue Merle Border Collie laying on the grass
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Once you notice the above signs and ascertain that it is an ant bite, the next course of action is treatment. If you are not sure how to go about it, the following is a step-by-step guide on how to treat ant bites on dogs.

Stop the attack

Ants move in groups. Therefore, your puppy is likely to be attacked by more than one ant. So, the first thing you should do is to stop the attack. And this involves taking the pet to a secure area.

Due to the attack by a large number of ants, you may be tempted to bathe your pet to drown the ants. However, this will make the ants feel threatened; therefore, they bite even more. Besides, this will end up causing more pain and irritation to the canine.

So, once you realize that the ants have spread to other parts of the dog’s body, you should brush off the dog’s fur to get rid of the ants or pick any remaining ants off your dog. Remember to be gentle while doing this to avoid causing more injuries.

Additionally, as you stop the attack, you should wear protective gloves to avoid transferring the ant attack to yourself.

Tend to the wounds

Once you are sure that you have eliminated all the ants from your puppy’s body, the next step is to tend to the wounds. This can be done by washing the wounds with an antibacterial soap to kill any germs present.

Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

You can then gently apply a cold compress to the area of the skin redness or swelling to reduce inflammation.

Keep an eye on the dog

After performing the above first aid on your dog, you should keep monitoring them in case they develop any swelling of the face, eyelids, or muzzle. Check your dog’s breathing and general behavior. It’s not unusual for some signs, such as allergic reactions, to take longer to develop.

Visit a vet

Your pet’s good health should be your top priority. Contact your veterinarian for advice if your dog has been bitten by any insect. While monitoring your dog, if you notice that they are itching constantly, in pain, or develop impaired mobility, difficulty in breathing, and vomiting, among other signs, then you should seek medical assistance immediately.

Visit a veterinary doctor who can help observe your dog, make an informed diagnosis, and recommend the best treatment to save your pup’s life.

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How To Prevent Ant Bites On Your Dog

english bulldog sitting on grass
Image Credit: BLACK17BG, Pixabay

Better safe than sorry. Therefore, to avoid the struggle of treating your dog for ant bites and exposing it to pain and life-threatening conditions, you should learn how to protect your dog from ant bites.

The following are the various ways of preventing ants from attacking your dog.

1. Protect Your Yard

You want your dog to be able to run around in your backyard. To keep your dog safe, remove anthills from your yard and contact a pest control professional if you notice any ants in your garden.

2. Keep your dog indoors

shih tzu puppy sitting on a couch
Image Credit: Pattarit S, Shutterstock

Ants are mostly found outdoors. To minimize the chances of your dog encountering a colony of ants while outside, keep them on a leash during walks and hikes in areas where these insects may be common (especially areas where fire ants can be found). During the summer, fire ants produce the largest amount of venom, and therefore the stings are largest and most painful. For this reason, you should be extra careful during the summer months.

3. Store Food Properly

Ants are often in a constant move in search of food. Therefore, ensure that you do not invite them inside your home.

You should ensure that you keep all food in tightly closed containers. Also, ensure that you get rid of any food crumbs on the floors, cabinets, and surfaces where your dog frequents. By doing so, you minimize the ants’ chances of having access inside your home and attacking your pet.

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Ant bites are often dangerous for your dog as they can potentially result in severe conditions such as anaphylactic reactions. Always prioritize your pup’s safety.

Follow these tips to identify ant bites on your dog and learn how to treat an ant bite. More importantly, familiarize yourself with knowledge on how to prevent your dog from attacks from ants.

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