Has your dog been bitten by an ant? Ant bites can affect dogs in similar ways as they affect people. Fortunately, there is no need to panic if your dog gets an ant bite or sting. There are some steps you can take to help your dog and prevent future bites.
What Are Ant Bites?
There are several species of ants found in the United States. Some have been known to bite and/or sting humans, dogs, and other animals. The good news is that ant bites are typically less serious than other types of bug bites and stings.
Ant bites can occur anywhere on a dog's body but most often happen on the feet or the face. Fire ants are the most common types of ants to bite dogs and cause a reaction. Fire ants are typically found in the southeastern regions of the United States but may be seen as far west and Texas and as far north as Ohio.
Signs of Ant Bites in Dogs
- Red, swollen areas on the skin
- Pain or itching at the bite
- Swelling at the area of the bite
- Limping (if bites occur on a limb)
- Drooling (if bites occur in the mouth)
- Facial swelling
- Difficulty breathing
Ant bites are often painful and cause the affected site to become red and swollen. Dogs that get bitten or stung on the feet or legs may yelp in pain, hold up the affected limb, and develop lameness. You may notice redness and swelling between the toes. In addition, dogs may paw at their faces or salivate if they have bites or stings on the nose, face, or mouth.
Ant bites do not always cause symptoms. Mild bites or stings may not be painful and disappear on their own. However, some ant bites can be severe enough to cause an allergic reaction. Some dogs are more sensitive to ant venom than others. Dogs with underlying health conditions may be more vulnerable. Small dogs may experience more serious reactions from numerous bites or stings.
Dogs with severe allergic reactions may experience facial swelling and trouble breathing. Anaphylaxis is technically possible, but this has not been reported in dogs.
Causes of Ant Bites
Dogs are most likely to get ant bites or stings when they step on anthills. They may also get bites or stings on the nose, face, or mouth after sniffing or trying to eat ants. Fire ant colonies are known to be aggressive and attack when their nests are disturbed. The fire ant attaches to the animal with its mandible and injects venom from a stinger that comes out of the abdomen. The venom from fire ant stings typically causes a localized reaction, but numerous stings can lead to a systemic allergic reaction.
The treatment of ant bites and stings in a dog will depend on the severity of the injury. The pain or itchiness from ant bites is often self-limiting; it tends to go away on its own without the need for medical intervention. However, it's important to contact your veterinarian for advice after your dog has gotten ant bites or stings.
Your veterinarian may advise applying a cold compress to the area of the bite or sting to reduce swelling. In addition, your vet may recommend administering an over-the-counter antihistamine like diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Over-the-counter topical creams, ointments, or sprays are not generally recommended since they may cause dogs to lick the area and ingest the medicine. It's important to keep your dog from licking or chewing the affected area as this may lead to an infection.
Contact your vet immediately if your dog is not improving or seems worse after home treatment.
How to Prevent Ant Bites
The best way to protect your dog from ant bites is to keep your dog away from ants and their nests.
- Remove anthills from your yard and keep them from coming back. You may need assistance from a pest control professional.
- Keep your dog away from anthills when out for a walk or playing in nature.
- Keep your dog on a leash during walks and hikes.
- Do not allow your dog to roam free.
- Stop your dog from eating and sniffing insects.