If It's Poisonous to Ants, Is It Poisonous to Dogs?

Nobody wants ants in their home. Many commercially available ant traps, baits, and sprays are available for homeowners to kill these industrious creatures within the home and around its exterior. But what if you have a dog? If a product is poisonous to the ants, is it harmful to your furry companion?

The answer is: hopefully, not too much. Ant poison itself is usually designed not to be toxic to animals, precisely because pets could ingest the product. However, care and caution should always be used when using ant killer or pesticides of any kind around children and pets. Some ant baits do contain boric acid, and if your dog consumes enough of it, there is risk of toxicity. Spray pesticides can be harmful if breathed in or if your pet is confined in the space too soon after spraying or walks through a treated area before the product has dried.

Products used to eliminate ants from the home are relatively safe for people and pets when care is taken at the time of use. However, you must use common sense and keep your canine friend away from homemade and commercial concoctions, to be on the safe side.


The Odor Attracts

Ant traps tend to be baited with substances that are attractive to ants, like food substances, such as peanut butter. The worker ants signal for other workers to make their way to the tasty bait, and then transport it back home. The bait mixed with insecticide is slow-acting, allowing the worker ants to feed on it and carry the mixture back to the nest and its inhabitants, including the queen. 

Unfortunately, this odorous trap will also attract your pets, especially your food-motivated dog. While ingesting an ant trap may not poison your dog, the insecticide and the oily or greasy substance within can make your dog sick and experience diarrhea. If your pet consumes multiple traps, a vet visit is warranted because of the foreign material that can now block the intestines. If there is abdominal pain, a bloated stomach, diarrhea or vomiting, take your dog to the clinic without delay.


Other Products

Products other than ant traps used to rid our homes and surroundings from these invaders are ant bait gels, sprays, and powders. The good thing is, that the products used today are increasingly more organic-based and less harmful to our children, pets, and the environment. Some of these ant eliminators do contain oily and fatty substances (such as in the gels) that you do not want your pet ingesting. Despite the safety rating of natural-type baits, apply them in areas your dog cannot reach such as crevices and high-up places.

Sprays often contain non-toxic compounds and ingredients like citrus, made to repel ants and used as a complement to baits. Because only 20% of ants actually leave the nest, repellents are intended to prevent the pests from setting up shop in your home in the first place and are to be used in areas where you suspect ants may want to enter the house. While they are touted to be safe for pets, it is best to apply the spray and wait for it to dry before allowing your furry buddy in the treated area. 

Diatomaceous earth is a powder-like alternative to traditional ant killers that works by cutting through the ant's body and subsequently drying it out. Although it is not harmful to your dog, neither you or your four-legged companion should breathe in the dust because it can irritate the nose and throat. Apply it liberally but discourage your dog from investigating the powder. Once it has rained, diatomaceous earth does dry out to powder again but is "heavier" and does not blow around as much as when first applied. 

Although diatomaceous earth, commercial organic sprays and natural-based gels are described as less invasive products, keep in mind that they do work against several types of bugs including those that you may not want to harm.

Consider homemade mixtures if you have a particularly curious dog. Vinegar and lemon juice combined are thought to dissuade ants from the home. Spray where you see ants congregating. Coffee grounds and spices like cinnamon are known to drive ants out of a favored area. Another tested deterrent is to spread a line of chalk around the perimeter of the home. Although the reasoning behind it has not been proven, it seems that ants will not cross the chalk line.


Safety Considerations and Prevention

If you need to use ant traps or other methods of ridding your home or yard of insects, be sure you know whether the traps or substances you are using are harmful to your pets if they come in contact with them. Nowadays, many products are not especially toxic to your pet, but ingestion of the traps that contain ant killer may be harmful to your dog's digestive system. If your dog ingests any item or substance used for insect control, monitor your dog carefully and obtain veterinary help if symptoms of gastrointestinal distress manifest. Always remember to place insect traps and poisons where your pets cannot reach them, to prevent possible harm. 

Try preventative measures against ants like cleaning downspouts, removing rotten leaves and brush from the yard, and storing your outdoor garbage cans at the back of your property. Inside, keep counters clean, wipe up spills immediately, and store items like bread, fruit and produce in the fridge. 

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