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Fire Ants Are No Sunday Picnic For Pets
When Fire Ants Attack - Your Pet’s Wellness is Important to Whitworth Animal Clinic

When Fire Ants Attack – Your Pet’s Wellness is Important to Whitworth Animal Clinic

Since their introduction from South America, fire ants have become a serious nuisance throughout the southeastern United States. Along with their ability to wreak havoc on crops, they also pose a threat to both people and their pets. Because of fire ant’s aggressive behavior, it’s important for any pet owner to keep an eye out for signs of an attack on your pet and take quick action when needed.

No Small Problem

With a warm climate and no natural predators, fire ants have heavily colonized the South all the way to central Tennessee. This means north Alabama, including Huntsville, Madison, and other nearby communities, are an attractive habitat for these pests. Not only will they attack when their mound is bothered, they are often attracted to a pet’s food bowl. Attacking from the ground, the ants usually spread up the legs and onto the underside of the pet. They both sting and bite simultaneously – hence the feeling of being on fire at the bite spot. The pet’s reaction is usually scratching or rolling. A dog or cat will also try to remove them with its mouth, where they then have access to the muzzle nose, mouth and ears.

As soon as you see even one fire ant on your pet, take the following actions:

  • Immediately move the pet to another location away from the anthill or attack site,
  • Use a cloth, a glove, a brush or even your hand to knock them off, brushing downward with short strokes,
  • Do not try to spray the ants off with a hose or dunk the animal in a pool or bath, as water actually provokes the ants to cling to the animal with a harder grip with their mandibles.

Treatment

In most cases, the pet suffers painful bites but will recover with prompt at-home follow-up treatment, similar to neutralizing a jellyfish sting:

  • Clean the bites with pure ammonia on a cotton ball to mitigate the stinging.
  • Make a paste of water and either meat tenderizer or baking soda, apply to the bites and let it sit 20 minutes.
  • Wash paste off with antibacterial soap and lightly pat dry.
  • Apply an hydrocortistone lotion or spray to the bite areas.
  • To reduce itching and swelling place a cold compress on the affected spots

Complications

Whitworth Animal Clinic, serving the communities of Madison, Huntsville, Decatur and surrounding areas in north Alabama, can provide both medications and advice. There are some situations where pet wellness can be threatened and a trip to the clinic is vital. If the animal was seriously swarmed with ants, bring it in immediately, as the animal can suffer an allergic reaction, depending on the size of the dog, it’s age, and the number of bites. Small and elderly animals are at the greatest risk of serious reaction. This will become apparent soon after the attack and might include pale gums, seizures, regurgitation, or loss of balance. Fire ant bites often get infected, indicated by a continuation of swelling, inflammation, pustules on the bite site, and oozing after a day and a half.

With the presence of fire ants lurking in the grass, northern Alabama is not as pet-friendly as in the past. Your pet’s wellness depends on awareness of this constant threat and taking fast action when called for. Whitworth Animal Clinic is here to help in any pet emergency.