How do you treat ant bites on a dog?
Pet Health Questions and Answers

How to Recognize and Treat an Ant Bite on Your Dog’s Paw

Most of us are concerned about things like bee and insect stings or a spider bite on our dogs. But specific ants can cause problems for your dog, too. Insect bites of any kind should be taken seriously, but sometimes it can be hard to see an ant on your dog before the damage is done. Knowing the types of ants that are dangerous and the symptoms to look out for if your dog has been bitten can help with treatment.

Not all ants are the same, but almost every kind of ant can bite or sting. But most of these attacks don’t cause damage to dogs. Certain types can end up causing a lot of pain and severe damage if the bite isn’t treated immediately.

Dogs’ paws, as you might expect, are quite susceptible to ant bites. All it takes is for your dog to walk through an ant hill or even stand where there might be ants nearby. It only takes a second for an ant to bite the bottom of a dog’s paw.

Unfortunately, you might not notice the symptoms immediately. Some bites might not start to feel pain until later. The first clue is that your dog is licking and chewing its paws more than normal. That’s why it’s crucial to look for the right signs when your dog isn’t acting normal or looking like they might be in pain.

Table of Contents:

Treating Ant Bites on Dogs

This guide will cover different types of ants and how their bite can affect your dog. We’ll discuss the symptoms and how different types of ants can create more significant problems. You may have nothing to worry about. But, in other cases, it could be serious enough to mean that your dog requires immediate medical attention.

We’ll also go over what you can give your dog if they start to experience adverse symptoms from an ant bite on the paw. Because different kinds of ants are everywhere, it’s nearly impossible to prevent bites like these from happening all the time. Knowing what to do if your dog gets bitten by an ant will ensure that they aren’t in pain for long!

Which Ants Are Dangerous?

You should ‘try’ to keep your dog away from all types of ants as most of them can and will bite or sting. This can cause your dog’s paw to become red and swollen.

But some ant bites won’t affect your dog’s paw at all. Other ants can have a more severe effect with their bite. The side effects can be mildly annoying, or they can cause a lot of pain. In extreme cases, an ant bite can even poison your dog, creating an emergency situation.

So, which ants are the riskiest for your pet? Let’s look at some of the most common offenders:

  1. Black ants: These are often common household pests. They often look similar to red ants or even red fire ants except for their color, but they aren’t nearly as harmful. They don’t sting, but they can bite you or your dog. Their jaws can puncture the skin quite deeply. It’s not just the bite itself that can hurt. Black ants can produce a small amount of formic acid that causes a burning sensation.
  2. Bull ants (bulldog ants): They are known for being very aggressive, and they can bite a dog’s paw many times in a row. The bite itself can hurt. Your dog can also be allergic to the bite, which can cause further problems. If they are allergic, the bite can cause extreme pain. It may even be fatal if not treated.
  3. Red ants (fire ants): They have some of the most painful bites of any ant species. Their bites and stings can cause an instant burning sensation that doesn’t go away quickly. Aside from the intense pain, red fire ants work together to attack their prey. If your dog gets bitten or stung by one fire ant, it can quickly become covered in thousands of fire ants and receive multiple stings.
  4. Green ant (green-head ant): These can have a life-threatening bite. Your pup may not notice the bite itself at first. It’s the ant venom that leads to pain and health risk. In some cases, the pain and stinging from the ant venom can last for up to a day.
  5. Carpenter ants: Not surprisingly, the carpenter ant is often found in wooded areas. They’re also common in homes, so it’s easy for your dog to come in contact with a nest. Because a carpenter ant is so good at cutting through wood with their strong jaws, imagine how easy it is for them to sink into the soft pad of your dog’s foot! Their bites can be painful and cause an irritating, stinging sensation.

As you can see, different ant bites call for different types of treatment. All of them can be uncomfortable, though. Even if special treatment isn’t needed, you should know the steps to take to give your dog relief. We’ll dive further into some of those treatments shortly.

What Are the Symptoms of an Ant Bite?

Symptoms may be slightly different depending on which type of ant bit your dog. No two bug bites are the same. Also, as already mentioned, the symptoms can be worse for your pet if they are allergic to an ant’s venom.

Some of the most common signs your dog has been bitten by an ant include:

  • Swelling on or around the paw
  • Itching and irritation
  • Lameness
  • Redness
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Respiratory distress

Aside from these visible physical symptoms, your dog’s attitude and actions can often be clear signs something is wrong.

If an ant bites their foot, they might do some of the following:

  • Hold their foot up and avoid putting weight on it
  • Start to whimper or whine as though they are in pain
  • Lick or bite at the affected area

In extreme cases, your dog can go into anaphylactic shock. This will happen if they’re allergic to the bite or the venom released from the ant. In these cases, your dog will likely experience most of the symptoms above; they can also start to have trouble breathing.

  • Important: You may also start to see blisters and welts form on the area, and even elsewhere on their body. If your dog shows signs that they are having trouble breathing, you should get them to a veterinarian immediately.

Can a Dog Be Killed by Ants?

Most varieties of ants in the United States aren’t able to kill your dog with their bite alone.

An ant bite or two can be painful. The problem comes when many ants start to bite your dog at the same time. This is common for species like fire ants, who are eager to attack in large groups.

Still, it’s not even the bite or the venom that is usually the problem. While these can be extremely painful, they’re unlikely to be fatal.

dog got into ant pile

Here are two situations that can be an issue:

  1. Problems can arise if your dog is allergic to a specific ant bite or sting. If they are, it won’t take long for an allergic reaction to occur. The scariest part of a response like this is when the throat closes up. You’ll have a short amount of time to get your dog help before the situation becomes an emergency.
  2. Your dog might also be in danger if they are older, have an existing health condition, or a weak immune system. Many ant bites with venom can compromise their system even more.

It would take many ant bites to kill your dog if they aren’t allergic or don’t have a pre-existing condition. That being said, you should still treat an insect bite on the paw if it seems to be bothering your dog. If you let it go and your dog starts biting at it, it could become infected, which could eventually have serious (even fatal) consequences.

How Long Do Ant Bites Last on Dogs?

Reportedly, some adverse effects may not even be discovered until between three and fourteen days of the sting. However, the prognosis is typically good for more localized reactions. Many clinical signs on a dog’s ant bite will resolve within twelve and twenty-four hours as long as the appropriate therapy is used.

Most ant bites can and will heal on their own. Red ant bites usually won’t last for more than a day at the most; however, some ant bites can last for a week to ten days.

How to Get Ants Off My Dog

  1. Make sure that you get the ants off your pet quickly. This is a vital step before commencing treatment because ants can hang on to your dog’s skin, fur, etc. The longer they hang on, the more likely it is that they’ll continue to bite and cause your pet further pain and discomfort.
  2. Remove your dog from the area where the bites occur. This might be more obvious at certain times than it is at others. If you notice an ant hill or an area with a lot of bugs in one spot, make sure to take your dog away.
  3. To remove the ants from your dog, use a brush or comb and make downward strokes against their fur. If the bites were isolated to their paw, you don’t need to brush them. Be sure to check for any lingering pests on their feet. They could have easily crawled up the leg. Try to keep your dog calm during this whole process by talking to them and showing them affection. If they were bitten, the chances are they are in pain. Soothing words can make things a little better for them.
  4. Never use water to get rid of the ants. This includes spraying your dog with a hose or putting them in a bathtub to rinse them off. Water can cause the ants to cling on even more because they don’t want to get washed away. A comb or brush is the best way to remove them from fur.

What Can I Give My Dog for Ant Bites?

Treating ant bites on your dog will largely depend on how they react to them. Some bites can be more severe than others and cause more problems. Thankfully, there are different home remedies for the bites themselves.

These remedies can be used right away to help soothe pain, inflammation, and discomfort. You probably have most of the solutions somewhere in your home already. So, your dog doesn’t have to deal with the pain from a bite for too long.

Let’s take a look at what you can do if they get bitten or stung by a group of ants:

Ice Packs

Some ants have a bite so vicious and venom so potent that they can cause inflammation. Swelling on your dog’s paws can make it difficult for them to walk or put any weight on their feet.

Getting the swelling down as quickly as possible will help to reduce your dog’s pain. It will also give you the opportunity to take a closer look at the bites and make sure they aren’t severe.

Ice packs will numb the area temporarily to give your dog relief. While this can be the first solution that you try, and an effective one, it won’t last. That’s why other options can create more lasting healing effects.

Oatmeal Bath

Have you ever had to take an oatmeal bath to relieve itching? Your dog can enjoy the same kind of relief from ant bites with a soothing oatmeal bath, and you don’t even need to fill your tub to do it.

Follow these steps for a soothing oatmeal bath for your dog:

  1. Fill a basin with cool or lukewarm water.
  2. Add a natural oatmeal shampoo to the water.
  3. Soak a cloth in the oatmeal solution for a few minutes.
  4. Wipe the cloth over the ant bites gently, especially on the bottom of the feet.
  5. Wipe the cloth elsewhere on your dog if you think they may have been bitten in more than one place.
  6. Rinse your dog and dry them thoroughly.

The oatmeal will soothe itchy and inflamed bites. It will also help to cleanse the area(s) where your dog was bitten or stung. This can make other types of treatments more effective and can lower your dog’s risk of infection from bacteria.

Baking Soda Paste

One of the best home remedies for ant bites on a dog is a paste made from baking soda and water. Put a few tablespoons of baking soda into a bowl. Then, add a few drops of water and stir to make a thick paste. You can apply the paste directly to the bites. It’ll help to provide instant relief from itching and works as an anti-inflammatory agent.

What can I give my dog for ant bites?

You can continue to apply this paste as needed for a few days until signs of the bites have gone away completely. Just be sure to keep an eye on your dog so that they don’t try to lick the paste off their feet. Ingesting too much baking soda could make them sick. You may need to wrap their paw after putting on the paste to prevent them from licking or chewing it.

Does toothpaste help ant bites? Some have even found that applying a small amount of toothpaste to the bite area can immediately relieve any itching there may be. This is especially true in the case of fire ants. The toothpaste works to neutralize the poison completely. The bite may still be itchy for a few minutes, but it will be far better by the next day and almost not noticeable at all.

Apple Cider Vinegar

You can also use a 50-50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water and apply it to the bite area with a cotton ball up to three times a day for several days. The apple cider vinegar provides soothing relief for the ant bites and other insect stings. This can be especially helpful for dogs, seeing as dogs are more sensitive and typically have a greater response to different ant bites and insect stings.

How Much Benadryl Can You Give a Dog?

The above home remedies can be used if your dog has minor symptoms from the ant bites. If they experience an allergic reaction, something stronger may be needed. Over-the-counter medications are often recommended by vets to give to a dog experiencing an allergic reaction.

One of the most popular antihistamines for a dog is Benadryl. It can be taken orally. It’s meant to reduce swelling and stop itching. It can also help to get rid of other symptoms and side effects of an allergic reaction.

But, because Benadryl is designed for humans, it’s necessary to know the right amount to give to your dog safely.

  • Important: Dogs should have 1mg of Benadryl for each pound of weight. So, a 25lb dog would take one 25mg tablet. Tablets can usually be given 2-3 times a day.

Before giving your dog an over-the-counter medication, talk to their veterinarian. They may have a different suggestion for the kind of medication you should use. They might also have a different opinion on how much Benadryl your dog should take each day.

By following instructions from your vet, Benadryl can be an excellent solution for calming down an allergic reaction from ant bites.

Should I Take My Dog to the Vet for an Ant Bite?

Vet visits are expensive and can be hard on your dog if they’re already in distress. But, when you’re in doubt about a health situation, it’s always best to take your dog in and get them checked out.

If your dog does get bitten by an ant, you should immediately take them to the vet if they experience a severe allergic reaction. In these cases, it’s not the time to take an over-the-counter medication. If your dog’s throat is closing up or they have an anaphylactic shock, they need to see a veterinarian right away.

Other symptoms from a bite that should trigger a vet trip include:

How Can I Keep Ants Away from My Dog?

Most dogs go outside frequently, even if it’s to go to the toilet. So, it’s nearly impossible for your pet to avoid ants altogether.

But, there are several things you can do to keep these pesky insects from biting your dog so frequently:

  • Check your yard: If your dog goes outside a lot, do a sweep of your yard regularly. If you notice any ant mounds, try to get rid of them. If it becomes an overwhelming problem, you can call an exterminator. Make sure any products that are used are pet-safe.
  • Don’t keep food out: Ants are notorious for getting into the food bowls of animals. If your dog doesn’t eat all their food at once, move their bowl to higher ground and give them the rest later, so ants don’t start crawling into it.
  • Trap ants inside: If an ant colony manages to make its way into your house, you should try to get rid of them quickly. Thankfully, ant traps are easy to find almost anywhere and can be placed throughout your home. Be sure to hide them in corners or under things, so your dog can’t disturb them.
  • Ant proof the dog’s bowl: Even if you store food properly and get rid of any leftovers there may be, the dog’s bowl is always going to be out. This can be a delicious meal for ants. To ant proof your dog’s bowl, create a moat barrier. Put the dog’s bowls in a pan filled with water. You can also look for ant proof pet dishes designed to allow your dog easy access to their food while eliminating the likelihood of ants. Finally, keep the area around the dog’s bowls clean.

For a few days after your dog experiences an ant bite, you’ll want to check for any complications. If they didn’t have an allergic reaction, they should be just fine. But, it’s still a good idea to check for infection. Signs of an infection could be extreme warmth in the area. Or, you could notice little pus-filled marks on the paw.

Observe your dog for 24 hours. Then, keep an eye on them for a few days. This can be the key to making sure they stay healthy and don’t get sick from the bites. If they’re already in good health and you’ve eased their pain, they should make a full recovery.

It’s never easy seeing your pet in pain. Unfortunately, ant bites are common. They also aren’t entirely preventable. If your dog isn’t allergic, treating the pain and inflammation is the best thing you can do.


Now that you know what to look for and what to do to help prevent ant bites from harming your dog, you can allow them to continue to play and explore as they did before. Remember, even dogs that stay inside risk ant bites. So, the best thing you can do as a pet owner is to learn what happens when these kinds of bites occur so you can help your pup in the best way possible.