Ants are absolutely amazing creatures. I love watching the way they work together, and their strength is unsurpassed in the animal kingdom. Because ants are everywhere, your dog is bound to encounter them at some point.
Dogs eat some things that we humans find very strange, including ants. Some dogs will seek out ants for various reasons, while others eat them accidentally.
Can dogs eat ants?
Yes, dogs can, and do, eat ants. The more pressing concern is whether or not it’s harmful to them. In most cases, ants are actually a safe snack for your pooch.
Insects in Dog Food
You may have heard about the trend to use insects as a source of protein for humans. This is common in other countries, and environmental concerns mean it’s growing in popularity in the West as well.
There are several dog foods that now include insects as their primary protein source. Studies have shown insects to be comparable to, or even better than, animal protein for nutrition.
These studies did not focus on ants, but ants are present in many of the dog foods that include insects. This suggests that ants are not only safe for your pooch, they may even be desirable.
A study conducted with the western harvester ants found it to be highly nutritious. The ant is 66% protein. It also has a great amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and an essential part of your dog’s diet.
Ants are also high in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C, which is also a part of a balanced diet.
Why Dogs Eat Ants
Ants don’t seem like a natural food for a dog, so you may be wondering what would cause your dog to eat ants. It turns out, there are a few possible reasons why dogs eat ants.
Some dogs have a stronger prey drive than others. Some love to chase, because that part of their prey drive is well developed. Others prefer to follow the cycle of chasing, killing, and eating their prey.
If your pooch isn’t surrounded by wildlife, or knows that your beloved squirrels are off limits, they may “hunt” ants. It gives them mental stimulation and excitement, while also satisfying their prey drive.
Dogs are naturally curious creatures. They don’t have hands, so they explore the world with their noses and their mouths. They are the toddlers of the animal world, always putting things in their mouth that shouldn’t be there. They may not be interested in eating the ants, so much as learning about them. What better way to satisfy their curiosity than snacking on them?
Just like humans, dogs can have cravings for nutrients they need. Ths results in them craving a specific food. It’s possible that your pooch knows that ants are nutritious. Perhaps they even know when the ants have nutrition that they need in their diet.
After all, dogs survived for a very long time without humans monitoring their diet. They must have some type of instinctual understanding of their dietary needs.
In Their Food
This is probably the most common reason dogs eat ants. Ants love dog food. Dogs love dog food. They won’t let a few ants stand in the way of their meal. If they find ants in their bowl, they will probably just incorporate them into their meal.
This isn’t true for all dogs. Some are completely opposed to eating ants, and will not touch their food if it contains even one ant. Others are selective, and will avoid their bowl if it contains fire ants.
What happens if my dog eats ants?
Ants are generally a good source of nutrition for your dog, but there are a few risks. If they only eat a few ants, you have nothing to worry about. However, if they’ve made a meal out of an anthill, there are a few potential concerns.
One possible complication of eating ants is stomach upset. Anytime your pooch consumes something they aren’t used to eating, there’s a risk of gastrointestinal issues. This can even occur when switching dog foods, which is why switches should be made gradually.
If your dog gets an upset stomach from eating ants, you can expect vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. They may also have stomach discomfort or seem to not feel well. This should pass within a few hours. If it doesn’t, you may have a bigger problem.
Bites and Stings
Bites and stings are another concern. Many ants are harmless. Others may leave behind an itchy area if they bite. However, some ants, like fire ants, pack a serious punch.
As someone who has experienced fire ant bites firsthand, I can tell you that they are quite painful for humans and canines. They will cause swelling and pain at the bite sight. A burning sensation and itching are also common.
The bites can also develop into sores which can leave scars behind once they heal. If your pooch is eating ants, they may get bites or stings to the nose or mouth, which is particularly problematic.
The swelling caused by the bite can interfere with your dogs breathing. The other problem with these types of ants is they will often attack in large numbers. Instead of one bite, your dog can receive many. This can overload their system. Small animals can die from these types of stings, and they can be very dangerous to your pooch as well.
The good news is your dog will likely avoid fire ants. They seem to have an instinctual understanding of the danger they pose, and will typically leave them alone. However, there’s no guarantee.
The other concern with your dog eating ants is an allergic reaction. This typically occurs with venomous ant bites.
An allergic reaction can cause limping or lameness if the feet are stung. Hives, excessive chewing and licking of the area, and swelling are also signs of a reaction.
Serious allergic reactions can cause anaphylactic shock. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing, and pale gums. In severe cases, collapse, loss of consciousness, or death can occur.
What to do if my dog eats ants?
In most cases, you won’t need to do anything if your dog eats ants. However, it is possible for them to have an adverse reaction that requires treatment.
The good news is simple stomach upset from dietary indiscretion, or eating things they shouldn’t, can be treated with over the counter medication.
Famotide is one option. Give your pooch 1/2 a mg for every 1 pound of body weight. A 20 pound dog would take one 10 mg tablet, for example. The dose can be repeated in 12 hours. ‘Famotide is an acid reducer, which can help settle your dog’s tummy.
Pepto Bismol is another popular remedy for dogs. You can give them 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight. Do not exceed 4 teaspoons for dogs over 40 pounds. You can repeat the dosage in 6-8 hours if necessary.
Allergic reactions often require veterinary treatment. If you notice hives or swelling, give your vet a call or bring your pooch in. If they are having difficulty walking, breathing, or are losing consciousness, this is a veterinary emergency. Anaphylactic shock can quickly become fatal.
How to prevent your dog from eating ants
Ants don’t generally pose a problem for your dog, but this doesn’t mean you want your pooch snacking on them. If you want to keep your dog from eating ants, there are a few steps you can take.
Keep Your Dog Indoors
Ants are much more likely to be found outdoors than inside, so one way to keep your pooch from eating them is to simply keep them inside. Of course, this sint’ always an option, which brings us to our next step.
Outside Ant Patrol and Control
If your dog is going to hang out outside, it’s important to monitor the area for ants. If you spot a mound, you can pick up ant insecticide products, or call an exterminator. Just be sure that whatever you use is pet safe.
Most types of ants in your yard are really better left alone. They won’t cause any harm to your pet. However, fire ants should be taken seriously and removed from your property.
If ants are a problem in your area, leash your dog on walks and avoid any anthills.
Pet Food Storage
Storing your pet food correctly can also help prevent your pooch from eating ants. Store dry dog food in an airtight container. Plastic totes work very well for this. This prevents the food from drawing ants and other insects the way a bag open to the air will.
Once an ant finds the dog food, they will call all their friends. You’ll then have a lot fo ants in your dog’s food, which they will likely eat.
Create a Barrier
If ants are a problem in your home or the area where you feed your dog, you can create an ant barrier around their bowl. You can use Vaseline to circle the bowl. Apply it to the underside and sides of the bowl as well as the floor around it.
Ants do not like crossing certain materials, including Vaseline. Some sources claim that chalk or baking soda also works as a barrier, but in my experience, these are ineffective.
Ants strongly dislike the smell of peppermint. The problem is, dogs aren’t a fan either. Peppermint oil shouldn’t be used on or near your dog.
However, you can apply peppermint oil the the exterior areas of your home, or a good distance from your pet’s usual hangout spots.
You can also plant mint around your home as a natural ant repellant.