For such minute creatures, ant bites are terribly painful and irritating to any living being that they manage to sink their teeth into. Unfortunately in most cases, if one ant is biting, likely there are hundreds more joining in on the attack. Dogs are often bitten by these pesky insects, so if you live in an area with heavy ant populations, you’ll want to know how to treat and identify these often ouchy bites.
Signs of Ant Bites and Stings on Dogs
Depending on the species of ant, they can bite, sting, or even do both. Most dogs are stung/bitten on the paws and legs, but you’ll also find evidence of biting on the belly or hindquarters if your dog spends a lot of time outside.
Dogs who have been attacked by ants can have:
- Swelling or pain at the site of the bite/sting
- Swelling of the entire limb that has been bitten
- Hives (you’ll notice these on the ears, the top of the head, and in their inner thighs)
- Facial swelling
Those are all considered an allergic reaction, but some dogs can have a more severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. If your dog shows any signs of an anaphylactic reaction, they need veterinary care ASAP as it can be deadly.
Signs of anaphylaxis include:
- Facial swelling
- Difficulty breathing
Fire ants are far more likely to cause anaphylactic reactions as they attack in very large numbers and are difficult to get off of your dog if they accidentally disturb a colony.
How Do I Get the Ants Off of My Dog?
First, it may seem like instinct to bathe your dog if they are covered in ants, but ants will actually bite more if they are suddenly having water dumped on them. Avoid the knee-jerk reaction to blast your dog with the hose or put them in the bathtub because you will just anger the ants and cause more discomfort to your poor pup.
If you have a flea spray at home that’s approved for dogs, like Frontline spray, you can spritz your dog and the pyrethrins in the spray will immobilize or kill the ants. If you live in an area with a lot of ants, especially aggressive species, it’s wise to keep the flea spray on hand for emergencies.
Whether you’ve used the flea spray or not, put on protective gloves so you don’t get bitten/stung and then start picking the ants off with your fingers. You can also use a fine toothed comb to help remove the ants from your dog’s fur.
To remove ants from your yard, purchase and deploy Pet Safe Ant Killer, in the affected area. Be sure to purchase a product that is dog safe and it’s use will not be a danger to your dog.
How Do I Make My Dog More Comfortable?
If your dog is only experiencing swelling and/or discomfort at the site of the bites, you can treat them at home with antihistamines (your vet can give you a dosage) and cool baths with a soothing dog-specific shampoo. An over the counter steroid cream will also help with itching, pain, or burning at the site of the bite.
However, if your dog is having swelling in their limbs or they’re visibly painful, you should seek veterinary care for pain medication and possibly steroids to help with the swelling.
You should always seek veterinary care if your dog is experiencing facial swelling, difficulty breathing, or vomiting/diarrhea after being bitten by ants.
What About More Rare Allergic Reactions?
While minor allergic reactions are commonly seen with ant bites, it is possible to see a more rare allergic reaction known as eosinophilic granuloma disorder. Some dogs, when bitten by insects on the face, can develop severe raised, cobblestone-like nodules that appear suddenly and spread across the face and onto the ears within a matter of hours. This type of reaction is rare but is very uncomfortable for dogs. Treatment requires high doses of steroids until the reaction has resolved and possibly antibiotics for any secondary infection caused by facial rubbing.
Ant bites are very, very rarely fatal in dogs, but they can really hurt! If your dog has been bitten by ants, the first step is to ensure there are no ants crawling in their fur, leading to more bites or pain. If your backyard is home to large populations of ants, it’s recommended to have pest control help you remove large colonies and learn to manage any returning nests to prevent more ant attacks in the future.