If there’s one thing a dog loves more than anything, it’s exploring the outside world. The only problem is the outside world isn’t always “friendly” to them. Because dogs have a curious nature, they’re going to want to explore everything…unfortunately, that includes ant hills.
The good news is the fact that, in most cases, ant bites are not life-threatening. Your dog will be in some discomfort, but with the proper treatment, you can get them back to their usual self within 24 hours.
Today we will be talking about how to treat ant bites on dogs. There are multiple treatment options, all of which seem to be equally effective.
Before we go over those home treatment options, let’s talk about whether or not a trip to the vet is required. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Is a Trip to the Vet Required?
Most of the time, a trip to the vet WILL NOT be required. However, if a dog got bit one too many times, they may begin to react.
Be sure to keep an eye on your dog over the next 12-24 hours and watch for the following signs of an adverse reaction:
Lethargy: It’s normal for dogs to want some downtime after getting bit by an insect. They’re most likely in pain and discomfort. But they should be back to their normal energy levels within an hour or two. If your dog continues to be lethargic for more than a few hours, they may be having an adverse reaction.
Swelling: Minor swelling at the location of the bite is completely normal. However, if you notice swelling around the face (or anywhere they didn’t get bit), this is a sign to take your dog to the vet.
Hives: If you have a short-haired dog, it’s easy to notice hives. However, on long-haired dogs, the fur usually covers the hives. If your dog is constantly biting or scratching their skin, be sure to manually inspect the area and check for hives.
Vomiting: When a dog starts vomiting shortly after getting bit by an insect, that’s a clear sign that you need to take them to the vet immediately.
Pale Gums: Another clear sign that your dog is having a bad reaction to an insect bite is pale gums. Usually, pale gums and vomiting go hand in hand.
If you notice any of these signs, give your vet a call. They’ll ask you a few questions and then let you know if you should come in for a visit or treat the bites at home.
Getting The Ants Off Your Dog
If your dog just got bit by ants, the first thing you want to do is get all the ants off your dog. It’s common to spray your dog or bath them in hopes to drown the ants. This is a mistake because even though it eventually will drown the ants, it will irritate them during the drowning process, and they’ll bite/sting even more. It’s best to use a dog brush to brush the ants off.
How to Treat Ant Bites on Dogs – The Three Step Method
If you decide there’s no need to take your dog to the vet, the next step is to treat the ant bites at home. The goal of the treatment is to get your dog to stop scratching and biting the skin. This will make the pain and swelling even worse.
You’ll notice step three provides multiple options. The point of step three is to soothe your dog’s skin, and all those methods do a great job. Just pick the one that works best for you and stick to it until your dog is no longer in pain.
Step 1: Check For More Ants
Ants are experts at hiding. The first thing you want to do is check for more ants on your dog. Look between the toes, under the tail, around (or even in) the ears, under the eyes, and so on. Ants can get just about anywhere! The last thing you want is to start treating the ant bites only to find out your dog keeps getting bit.
Step 2: Try to Identify The Ants
Identifying the type of ant is important because some ants are entirely harmless, while others can cause a bad reaction.
Three main types of ants are most likely to bite your dog.
Carpenter Ants: These ants are annoying but not dangerous to your dog. There’s a chance they might bite if they feel threatened, but your dog isn’t at any serious health risk if bitten by a carpenter ant.
Bullet Ants: Bullet ants sting more often than they bite, but their sting is incredibly painful. If your dog was stung by a bullet ant, there’s a good chance they’re in a lot of pain, but the venom is not deadly and doesn’t have any lasting effects past 24 hours.
Fire Ants: Fire ants are also very painful, but unlike the other two types of ants, their venom is dangerous for dogs. If the dog is only bitten by a few fire ants, it’s no big deal. However, if many fire ants bite them at one time, the venom can be strong enough to lead to an adverse reaction.
If possible, take a careful look at the type of ant that bit your dog. Then search the internet for pictures of all three ants and see if you can identify which ant it is. If it’s a carpenter or bullet ant, you don’t have anything to worry about. If it’s a fire ant, you may want to consider calling your vet.
Step 3: Soothe The Pain
Below are five methods to ease the pain and swelling from ant bites. Your dog should be feeling much better within 24 hours.
OTC Benadryl: Yes, Benadryl is safe for dogs as long as you don’t overdo it. The standard safe dosage for a dog is 1mg per pound of bodyweight. Give this to your dog three times within 24 hours (spread by six hours if possible). You can use Benadryl along with one of the other four methods below.
Baking Soda and Water: One way to ease the irritation is to bath your dog, but instead of regular shampoo, combine one tablespoon of baking soda with 1 cup of water. Massage it onto your dog and let it sit for a few minutes before washing it off.
Alternatively, you can use baking soda to give your dog a dry bath. Simply sprinkle baking soda around the ant bites and massage it in with your hands. Let it sit for a few minutes before brushing it all off.
Baking soda does a great job soothing irritated and itchy skin, which is exactly what your dog is experiencing.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Water: Mix ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar with ¼ cup of water into a mason jar (or any jar of your choosing). Shake it well and use a cotton ball to apply the liquid to any bites 4-6 times per day. This works well because apple cider vinegar has been proven to reduce itching significantly.
Calamine Cream: If you have any sort of Calamine cream lying around the house, you can use that on your dog to reduce the itching and irritation. This cream does a great job at providing temporary relief for a few hours. When it looks like your dog is starting to scratch again, simply apply more.
Oatmeal Bath: Although this is more of a hassle, it is an excellent way to get rid of the pain and soothe the itching. If it looks like the other methods you tried aren’t powerful enough, give the oatmeal bath a shot.
To make an oatmeal bath, you’ll need a blender or coffee grinder and one cup of unflavored oatmeal. Grind oats in your blender and then add those oats to your warm bathwater. Let your dog soak in the bath for about 10 minutes before drying them off. The oatmeal bath will help relieve dry, itchy, and irritated skin.
Remember, your job when treating ant bites is not to “heal” the bites. Healing will happen naturally within 24-48 hours. Your job is to provide soothing until the healing takes place. All five methods above will do a great job at reducing swelling (if there is any) and provide relief to the pain, irritation, and itching.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.