Can Dogs Eat Ants? How Safe Is It?

Can dogs eat ants? Picture of a dog eating from his dog food bowl and an ant looking at him.

Dogs can have moments where their behavior is just strange. Eating ants might be one of those for you, the concerned pet parent. Here is what you should do about it!

In the majority of cases, dogs can eat ants and, unless you saw him doing it, you’d never know! Ants are harmless in most cases and are great little “vitamins” for dogs due to their protein, vitamin, and mineral content!

It’s not uncommon for dogs to have ants in their food. As in, ground-up ants can be added to dog kibble as extra protein. Think about it for a moment. Even humans are known for eating all kinds of insects, including ants. They’re great, healthy sources of protein and do no harm in most cases.

Why Does My Dog Eat Ants?

Simply put, dogs eat ants because they are in, or in the way of, their food! If a dog finds ants in his food bowl, he’s more than likely to eat his meal even if he does notice them. In most cases, ants are harmless and actually provide extra protein and Vitamin C for your dog’s benefit.

Is it normal for a dog to eat ants?

Dogs eat all kinds of things, as you likely already know. Ants are amongst the most common and (thankfully) harmless of options. There are three main reasons why your dog might be eating ants:

  • His prey drive
  • He understands that they’re nutritious
  • He’s curious

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His prey drive

If he’s outside and enjoying his time sniffing around the lawn, he may notice a line or group of ants. Because his biological impulse is to hut and eat, he’ll hunt and eat them even though he has a perfectly balanced diet at home. This is great for his mental stimulation.

He understands that they’re nutritious

Ancestrally speaking, dogs may even understand that ants are excellent sources of food for them, so they’ll scoop up a few of them when they need a snack, or they’re feeling a little low on energy. 

He’s curious

You could see this one coming, right? Ants move funny and capture your dog’s attention. So, they sniff them up and give them a lick. Maybe they like them, and perhaps they don’t!

Is it safe for dogs to eat food with ants on it?

If you’re feeding your dog and see ants crawling around in the food, don’t be too alarmed. It’s relatively common to see one or two, at least, crawling around. These are harmless, as we’ve mentioned.

However, if you notice that the ants look dangerous (red ants or fire ants, for example), or there’s a whole bunch of them, you might want to hold off on giving your dog the food to see what’s going on. It could be that an ant colony has moved in close to your dog’s food, and they’ve infested it. You’ll want to throw the food out and get some new dog food, in this case.

Any time that you see fire or red ants, immediately throw out the food! Red ants can cause problems (more on that later).

What happens if a dog eats ants?

Most likely nothing. In rare cases, however, there can be a reaction specifically related to eating the ants. The most common examples include:

  • An allergic reaction
  • Stomach issues

An allergic reaction

This would often take the form of a rash, and it could be mild or severe, depending on your dog’s allergy. If you know your dog is allergic to ants, don’t let him eat them — no matter how much he wants to!

Stomach issues

In some cases, dogs may have a susceptible stomach. Eating a moderate amount of ants (“moderate” being the main point here) could upset his stomach for the high amount of protein that he’s eaten. He’d have to eat a decent amount of them, though!

There are two very rare circumstances surrounding dogs eating ants. These would be, again, extremely rare, and the ants would need to be eaten in massive quantities — as in, an entire bucketful of them at a time:

  • Kidney failure
  • Blindness

These are especially rare and difficult to track as far as understanding that ants are the root cause. As far as what experts agree, it could be due to the powdered version of ants (such as that used in protein powders) rather than the live ones themselves. If you’re worried about this, your vet would be the best person to ask about it!

What to do if my dog ate fire ants?

If you’ve noticed, as mentioned above, that your dog’s food has red or fire ants in it, you’ll want to start watching for signs of stinging or biting immediately. These red ants are incredibly defensive and will attack back if your dog tries to eat them. Classic black ants don’t often bite, but they can if threatened. If you notice ant bites on your dog, you’ll want to make sure that you take him to a vet to make sure he’s okay. 

Can ants kill a dog?

Dogs can be killed easier than humans when it comes to ant bites or stings. This is due to their smaller size. However, it would be very rare for this to happen.

That being said, if a lot of ants bite and sting him as he investigates their nest, his face and mouth/throat can swell enough that he may have difficulty breathing. If you notice any swelling or excessive panting, you’ll want to take him to the vet immediately to counteract it!

How to get ants off my dog

If your dog’s brought home a few ant hitchhikers, you could get them off by using any, or any combination of, these things:

  • A lint roller
  • A bristled brush
  • A dog bath

It is a good idea to remove ants from your dog’s fur as quickly as possible, as they can bite or cause skin irritation if they are left on your dog’s hair for an extended period.

How to get ants out of my dog food container

No one wants to find a bunch of ants crawling around in a food container or a dog bowl, for that matter. But it does happen even in situations where you are being careful!

If it happens in a dog food bowl, put the bowl of food into a shallow dish of water after you’ve removed most of them from the dog food (or throw it out, dependent on your preferences). This will create a moat, and the ants won’t be able to get into the dog food bowl. 

If ants have taken over your dog’s food container, you’ll either want to remove them or throw out the dog food (again, depending on your comfort level. Once you have new, ant-free food, put it in an air-sealed container to keep them (and other pests) out. As a bonus, it’ll keep it fresh for longer, too!

In most cases, eating ants is harmless for your dog, but you do have to make sure that he doesn’t help himself to an entire anthill! These tips will help.

To wrap it all up

Dogs eat ants because they are a source of protein and other vitamins and minerals. Ants tend to be harmless, but a lot of them, or red ants, can create danger or illness.

Know someone that has a dog who loves eating ants? Please share this with them and help them know what to look for.

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Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.