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ant biting skin

Signs Your Dog Has Been Bitten by Ants (and How to Treat Ant Bites on Dogs)

Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to all sorts of insect bites. We look at whether ant bites on dogs are dangerous and how to treat them.

One of the great joys of dog ownership is getting to watch your pooch having the time of their life enjoying the great outdoors. Most of the time, playtime will not involve any issues. But unfortunately, a wide array of unexpected problems can come with the territory, including bee stings, bone or joint injuries, and allergic reactions.

Ant bites or stings are another such problem your dog might encounter outdoors. Thankfully, ant bites on dogs are not generally known for being huge health hazards—instead, they tend to just be itchy and irritating. 

Still, if you know what symptoms to look out for and how to treat an ant bite or sting, you can help soothe your pup’s discomfort and prevent them from becoming sicker. The experience may also help you keep them from being badly bitten or stung in the future.

Are Ants Biting or Stinging My Dog?

Because of their mandibles, all ants are able to bite; however, most ants do not go out of their way to bite humans or dogs unless they feel threatened. Not all ants can sting, and the ones that do are likely to use a combination of both bites and stings to defend themselves. 

Some types of ants are more aggressive than others, but generally, ants will only attack dogs when threatened. Although a dog who is standing near an anthill may not intentionally pester the ants, some ants may see this presence as an impending threat and try to get the dog to go away by biting it (or stinging it, if the ants are of a stinging variety). 

An ant bite or sting may occur anywhere on the dog’s body but is more likely to be inflicted where bothered ants would have easy access to the skin, including on the paws, tail, lower legs, and nose (if your dog is sniffing around on the ground). If your dog was lying down on the grass or dirt inhabited by ants, it is also possible their stomach, throat, or rear end could be affected. 

These spots are more likely to be targeted than others, though it is possible for an ant to crawl around on your dog and bite or sting elsewhere. An ant that is exploring and happens to find its way onto your dog is not necessarily going to try to bite; however, if it feels threatened, it might. 

Signs and Symptoms of Ant Bites on Dogs

The most common sign of ant bites, whether on dogs or humans, are raised red welts or wheals. Because ants tend to attack in droves, it is not uncommon to see lots of these raised bumps clustered wherever the bite occurred. In some instances, these bumps may also feel warm to the touch.

As a consequence of these bites, your dog may feel itchy and start to chew or scratch at the affected area. They may also experience some swelling or hives and may whine or become restless. 

Some dogs may experience an allergic reaction after being bitten or stung by ants, leading to breathing problems, nausea or vomiting, or serious swelling. 

A Note About Red Ant Bites and Stings

Fire ants—also known as red ants or red imported fire ants—are a type of South American ant that may also be found in some of the more southern, warmer parts of the United States. These ants have stingers, and as such, will both bite and sting aggressively. The stingers contain venom, making wounds from these ants nastier than bites from other types of ants. 

fire ants

If your dog is allergic to bee stings, it is more likely that they will have a worse reaction to fire ants than a dog who isn’t allergic. Whether or not your dog is allergic, though, if they have an encounter with fire ants, it is important that you keep an eye on the wound or wounds and take them to the vet if they begin to have shortness of breath, vomiting, or extreme swelling.  

Treatment of Ant Bites

Ant bites on dogs usually heal quickly, similar to ant bites on humans. Within a day, bumps and itchiness associated with an ant bite tend to go away; however, shortly after a dog has been bitten, they may become very itchy or uncomfortable.

Scratching or gnawing at welts from insect bites can lead to further irritation of the skin, prolonging the healing process. For this reason, you should try to keep your dog from bothering the spots until they heal, and also consider offering some relief if they are feeling itchy. 

One easy way to combat swelling is through an ice pack (wrapped in something to keep from damaging the skin). Cold water flowing over the bite wound can also help relieve some of the itchiness or uncomfortable warmth.

Benadryl may also help reduce inflammation, but it is important to consult with your vet before giving the medication to your dog so that you know what dosage would be appropriate. Also, because the symptoms of an ant bite tend to go away fairly quickly, it may be better to wait and observe the welts for a while before beginning a medical intervention. 

If you know your dog has been bitten by ants and they are trying to gnaw at the affected areas, you might need to use an Elizabethan collar (e-collar) to discourage additional irritation of the skin. This might also be helpful if your dog was bitten on the face and is trying to scratch the itch. 

If your dog is having a very severe reaction, it may be a good idea to take them to the vet. Your vet may prescribe a steroid for a reaction of this severity. 

dog looks at ant

Avoiding Ant Bites on Dogs

Because ants are so small and are prevalent throughout the world, it can be very difficult if not impossible to prevent your dog from ever coming into contact with them. Even so, there are ways you can decrease the likelihood of your dog being bitten by ants.

The easiest way to avoid ant bites is by avoiding anthills. Although ants are often present in areas without obvious anthills, proximity to an anthill increases the chances that the ant colony will be disturbed. If you have an anthill on your own property, it may be a good idea to have it removed (or to consider an at-home removal option, many of which may be found online).

If your dog was bitten or stung on your property, it is a good idea to investigate the location where they were hurt to see if there is some kind of infestation in that area. You may also want to consider limiting the amount of time your dog is left outside unsupervised, or the amount of time they spend lying or playing in the grass or dirt. 


Some potential threats to your dog’s health—such as bugs like ants, mosquitos, and wasps—are more likely to be present in outdoor spaces than in indoor spaces, though there are plenty of objects and substances indoors that can also be harmful or toxic to pups. Still, it is important to not let fear control your dog’s life (or your own life!); instead, know what risks to look out for and how to best address them. 

If your dog is bitten or stung by ants, the good news is that in most cases it results in welts or irritation that resolve quickly. If this has happened and your dog’s health seems to be worsening or if they are experiencing an allergic reaction, you should contact your vet.

Chelsea Dickan

Chelsea Dickan

Chelsea Dickan is a long-time advocate for animals, especially those that bark or meow. When she isn't writing, she enjoys reading and watching scary movies in which the dog doesn't die.