As disgusting as it may sound, the dog’s appetite is limitless – dogs are willing to eat whatever they can get their teeth on, including specific bugs like ants. Once again, it may be disgusting for you and me, but for most dogs is entirely normal and natural.
So, can dogs eat ants? Yes, dogs can eat ants accidentally or purposely. Accidentally if ants decide to attack the dog’s food bowl and the dog eats them alongside its regular meal or, purposely, if the dog actually hunts the ants so it could eat them. The consequences of feasting in ants vary – from a benign adventure with no repercussions through digestive upset to infectious diseases.
In this article, we will review the most common types of ants in the US and the dangers they pose. We will also describe each possible scenario following the ant-eating adventure and finally, give you some tips on how to prevent your dog from eating ants – accidentally and purposely.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ANTS AND THEIR DANGERS
Considering there are over twenty thousand different ant species worldwide, a dog’s menu with an appetite for ants can be pretty comprehensive. There are over seven hundred ant species in the US, and twenty-five of them are commonly found in homes, yards, and parks – basically, all places the average dog goes.
The six most common types of ants include:
- Odorous house.
Luckily, none of the ants mentioned in this list are capable of stinging, but the first five are known to bite. In these terms, the odorous house ant is most benign – it neither stings nor bites (plus, it smells like coconut when smashed).
However, when it comes to ants, biting and stinging are not the only dangers. Namely, some ant species can carry pathogens and cause infectious diseases. For example, the Pharaoh ant can carry Salmonella and Streptococcus. As with any other wild animal, ants can potentially carry other germs and pathogens, but these are the most common.
Although not as common as these six ants, there are two more species worth mentioning. Once again, they deserve to be mentioned not because they frequently come into contact with dogs but because of their hazardous natures. This includes the:
- Bullet ant
- Fire ant (RIFA).
The Bullet ant is notorious for its painful bite. It got the name bullet because the pain caused by its bite is often associated with the pain caused by a bullet. Sometimes the pain is compared to walking on hot charcoal.
Fire ants are the only poisonous and stinging ants on this list. While other ants bite to harm, the fire ant bites only to get fixed to the victim, and once well-positioned, it stings and releases its venom. The consequences can range from extreme pain through an allergic reaction to neurologic issues like hallucinations.
WHY DOGS EAT ANTS?
As mentioned, dogs eat ants either accidentally or purposely. In both cases, the ant-eating scenario has both its pros and cons, but more on this later. Now, let’s explain why dogs eat ants.
Accidental ant consummation
Ants live in colonies with a well-established hierarchy. Each group of ants has its tasks, and there is always a group assigned to track food. Despite their diminutive size, ants have a powerful sense of smell, and interestingly, they find the smell of dog food quite intriguing.
Therefore, it is not unusual for the group of ants responsible for food scouting to find their way in the dog’s food bowl. What happens next depends on the dog – while ants will repel some dogs, others will not mind them and actually eat the mixture of ants and dog food.
Hunting ants or eating ants for fun
Some dogs can also hunt the ants on purpose and then eat them. Whether or not the dog sees the ant-catching experience as an actual hunt or not is questionable – it is not likely for something so small to trigger the dog’s hunting instincts.
However, if it is not because of the dog’s hunting heritage, chasing and eating ants can definitely be fun. Simply put, some dogs eat ants because they are there, and they have the so-called “see food diet” – they eat everything they see, including branches, fabric, cat poop, baby diapers, or flowers.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF MY DOG EATS ANTS?
Put the “phew”-factor aside, and eating ants is not such a bad thing. In fact, many dog food manufacturers revert to using insect proteins in their dog food formulas.
Dog foods made of insect proteins include different insect species, including ants or, better said, their larvae that are basically small clumps of fat and protein.
According to a study, insect-based dog foods have an “excellent amino acid profile” and are “easily digestible.”
Of course, the ants used in these foods are processed and completely safe. On the other hand, eating live and crawling ants is not always benign. Namely, there are several health considerations.
The ants will fight back
By fighting back, we mean bite. Considering the ant bite can be pretty painful (depending on the ant type), if your dog happens to get bitten several times while eating its food, the pain might deter it from using the bowl and eating in the future.
This is not a particularly common scenario, and usually, the aversion toward the food bowl is transient, but it is still worth mentioning.
The ants themselves are neither poisonous nor capable of causing digestive troubles. However, their rough texture can irritate the lining of the digestive tract in some extra sensitive dogs.
Anyway, more often than not, if a dog vomits after eating ants, it is probably because it ingested something else alongside the ants – for example, dirt.
Salmonella and streptococcus infections
As noted, Pharaoh ants can carry specific pathogens and trigger infectious diseases. Luckily, the chances of this happening are pretty low – first of all, not all Pharaoh ants are carriers, and secondly, this ant type rarely attacks dogs.
Even if a pathogen-carrying Pharaoh ant attacks your dog, there will not be an immediately visible sign and symptoms of the infection. The clinical manifestation will become apparent a few days after the ant-eating indiscretion.
Ingesting Fire ants
Ingesting fire ants is considering a life-threatening situation that warrants immediate veterinary attention.
Dogs that ate fire ants can experience signs similar to pesticide poisoning – one of the toxins found in fire ants, the acephate, is an organophosphate compound.
Common signs include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, tremors, muscle weakness, uncontrolled urination and defecation, and ocular discharge.
CAN ANTS HARM MY DOG?
Basically, yes, eating ants can harm dogs. However, eating ants is generally less harmful than experiencing bites and, in the case of fire ants – stings.
When it comes to biting, the carpenter and bullet ant is the most dangerous. Although the bullet ant triggers the most painful post-bite reaction, the carpenter ant should be underestimated.
The Carpenter ant’s bite is excruciating because of two reasons – it is relatively large, thus having a powerful jaw, and when biting, it releases formic acid. The name of this acid is derived from the Latin word “Formica,” which translates to an ant.
As for the Fire ant of popularly known as RIFA – red imported fire ant, its bite is a helpful mechanism that aids the sting – release of toxic alkaloid venom. In the best-case scenario, the venom will cause a local allergic reaction, and the worst-case scenario can be deadly – depends on the dog’s sensitivity and the number of stings.
ANTS IN YOUR HOME AND YARD: TO EXTERMINATE OR NOT?
According to statistics provided by the ASPCA, thousands of pets suffer from accidental ingestion of household poisons, usually insecticides. To make things even more concerning, these numbers are yearly.
Considering the frequency of such accidents, it is customary to wonder whether the risks of exterminating the ants are worth it – the ants can be less dangerous than the chemicals used for extermination.
Bottom line, we advise you to have a professional service to exterminate the ants. Of course, before the treatment, you will explain that you have a dog or other pets so that the service can make an exterminating strategy using insecticides that are not toxic to dogs and pets in general.
Although extremely disgusting, eating ants is a relatively benign habit most dogs can engage in without experiencing any side effects. However, when eating ants, dogs often ingest the germs and pathogens they are carrying as well as some amount of dirt which can cause gastrointestinal irritations.
All in all, just because it is not dangerous does not mean you should encourage your dog’s appetite for ants. You can do several things to train your dog out of this nasty habit and ensure it only eats things that are actually edible.
Can black ants harm dogs?
Black ants (the most common black ant is the Carpenter ant) can bite, but they do not sting and do not carry diseases. It is worth mentioning that black ants rarely attack and bite pets. However, if provoked, they will defend themselves by biting. Although not severely dangerous, the bite of a black ant is painful.
Does vinegar kill ants?
Vinegar is a popular anti-ant choice because it is safe for dogs. However, it must be emphasized that vinegar does not kill ants. Instead, because of its strong smell, it repels them. Simply put, if you spray vinegar inside your house, the ants will escape from there but probably inhabit your garden.
Are ants safe for dogs to eat?
Except for the Red fire ant, ants are considered safe for dogs. In fact, ants and other similar insects are believed to be the future of the dog food industry.
Do ants stay on dogs?
If your dog has been “attacked” by ants, you can get rid of them by bathing your dog and then thoroughly combing it to remove any dead ants trapped in the fur.