With summer quickly approaching, dogs are more likely to spend time in the yard and this makes them more prone to fire ant bites. The dog in this picture got recently stung and as you can see, there is some residual scar tissue to attest the encounter with the pesky fire ants. The name of these ants isn’t casual; when fire ants sting, they produce a toxic substance that is known for causing a burning sensation. Fortunately, in many cases the burning sensation is short-lived and dog owners can use a common household remedy to help reduce the pain and itch associated with these bites. So today’s trivia question is:
What makes an effective dog fire ant bite treatment?
A Apple cider vinegar
B Ginger root
C Epsom salts
D A paste of baking soda and water
The correct answer is: drum roll please…
The correct answer is: D, a paste of baking soda and water.
Fire ants are common ants in the southern United States that belong to the genus solenopsis. These ants are typically red and are known for living in large mounds made of fluffy worked soil found in open areas. The ants are about 1/8″ to 1/4″ long, and when they are disturbed, they tend to gather and crawl up vertical surfaces nearby their mounds. Because these ants tend to live nearby lawns, in parks or playgrounds, active, inquisitive dogs are likely to encounter them at some point or another. Digging, sniffing and nosing around puts dogs at risk for fire ant bites.
When the fire ants feel threatened, they will sting and inject a toxin called “solenopsin.” The burning sensation may cause a dog to lick the area. A dog’s paws and upper legs are areas commonly stung as the dog walks around and the irritated ants start climbing. Other vulnerable areas are the dog’s muzzle and belly area. Generally, within minutes dogs develop local irritation and swelling. Also, white vesicles or pustules may form.
“In clinical cases, discomfiture manifested by jumping back, running away, head shaking and rubbing of the paws was noted. ” (Nett, C., personal communication, 2004)
Dog Fire Ant Treatment
At the first signs of problems, it’s helpful to make a poultice of baking soda and water as this will help neutralize the sting, explains Amy D. Shojai in the book “The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats.” Simply mix one tablespoon of baking soda with enough water to form a thick paste and apply on the area making sure your dog doesn’t lick it off. If the area is a foot or paw, it may help to place a sock for about 20 minutes to ensure absorption. Antihistamines, such as plain Benadryl can be used for mild cases, but it’s best to consult with a vet on proper dosages.
“Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the sting site. If your dog has multiple stings or bites, a soothing oatmeal bath is the way to go.” VCA Animal Hospitals
As with other types of bug bites and stings, there are risks for serious allergic reactions that may result in anaphylactic shock. Dogs who develop hives, facial swelling and trouble breathing should see the emergency vet at once.
Timing is of the essence here. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual death due to anaphylaxis may occur within minutes following the sting.
Disclaimer: this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog got stung and is exhibiting concerning symptoms, please see your vet for proper treatment.
- Skin Diseases of the Dog and Cat: Clinical and Histopathologic Diagnosis, By Thelma Lee Gross, Peter J. Ihrke, Emily J. Walder, Verena K. Affolter, Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (September 12, 2005)
- The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats, By Amy D. Shojai, Rodale Pr (February 2001)
- VCA Animals Hospitals, First Aid for Insect Stings in Dogs, retrieved from the web on May 31st, 2o16