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Can Dogs Eat Ants? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Brooke Bundy

By Brooke Bundy

Can Dogs Eat Ants

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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Whether you’re chilling at the park or kicking back in your kitchen, it’s not unusual to see little groups of scurrying ants rushing towards the food. Dog food is also an open invitation for these creatures to sneak in your home and mooch off your picky eater’s crunchy leftovers. In retaliation, or mere curiosity, your dog might decide to snack on the bugs themselves. While your first instinct might be to tell them to drop it, you might be surprised to learn that eating ants isn’t harmful to dogs in most instances—unless they’re ingesting fire ants or are allergic to ant bites.

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Should You Allow Your Dog to Eat Ants?

Just the thought of eating ants makes our throats crawl. However, science tells us that they’re actually good sources of protein and vitamin C. It won’t hurt your dog to eat a few ants, and it may even be beneficial. The main exception would be fire ants, which can produce intensely painful bites and stings. Other types of ants may bite your pet if provoked but are less likely to cause a bad reaction unless your pet is allergic.

Ant allergies in pets are thought to be rare but can quickly turn severe. You should always call your vet as soon as possible if you notice any signs of an allergic reaction such as:

  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Chewing or licking at the affected area
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Respiratory distress
  • Restlessness
  • Pale gums
  • Vomiting

Unfortunately, severe allergic reactions can escalate into life-threatening conditions in minutes, so don’t delay once you spot the signs.

What to Do If You Notice Ants Near Your Dog’s Bow

Some dogs may avoid eating their food if they find ants in their bowl. Not to mention, the ants could bite your pet and create an unsightly infestation in your home. For these reasons, it’s understandable that most people want to get rid of ants inside their house.

Even if you’re desperate to banish the bugs, you should never use insecticide near your pet’s plate or on any surface they might lick. Insecticide can be toxic to pets, and deadly if consumed. Instead, you can spread a non-toxic insecticide such as diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your home, and especially around entrances. You can also apply some closer to the source of the problem, such as if you find a gap in the wall. Diatomaceous earth is made from crushed exoskeletons which will pierce through ant’s armor and kill them. Although it’s completely safe to use around children and pets, you’ll want to wear a mask while spreading it because the dust can irritate your lungs.

Other ways to deal with an ant problem include:

  • Cleaning frequently
  • Wash your pet’s bowl daily, or after each meal
  • Seal gaps in doorways and windows
  • Keep food sealed and stored away
  • Call your local exterminator if you feel the crisis has spiraled out of control
washing dog food bowl
Image Credit: MargaPl, Shutterstock

Are Ants Already in Your Dog’s Food?

Climate change has caused us to rethink how we cultivate food for us and our pets. The ongoing quest to cut down on meat consumption has led some pet companies such as Mars and Purina to institute innovative insect substitutions for higher-energy meats such as beef. Mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, and crickets are the only approved bugs to date, but more could be considered as we progress forward to fight global warming.

As of 2022, the insect movement has been successful in the United Kingdom but hasn’t gained much ground in the United States. The AAFCO has only approved selective uses of the black soldier fly larvae for use in pet food. No other bugs are currently allowed. However, given that ants actually do have some beneficial properties, such as protein and vitamin C, it is possible that they could be included in your dog’s food in the future.

man buying pet food
Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

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Unless they swallow a feisty fire ant, it probably won’t hurt for your dog to ingest an ant or two if they find them outside or crawling in their bowl. Ants are actually good sources of protein and may be included as an environmentally friendly “meatless” dog food ingredient in the future. You probably don’t want an infestation of ants inside your home though, so be sure to employ dog-friendly ways of insect control such as diatomaceous earth and diligent cleaning habits to prevent a colony from forming in the corner of your kitchen. Like humans, some dogs can be seriously allergic to ant bites, so it’s always important to monitor your dog for signs of a reaction, especially if they’re prone to allergic reactions already or if you’re outside with them frequently where they could accidentally find an anthill.

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