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Fire ants and your pets

During the summer people and animals want to be outside more than ever. However, what you may not be thinking about when you see the beautiful sunshine and the warm weather, is that there are pests out there that also like the warm weather. They start to come out during this time and might decide that your yard is the perfect place to set up their homes.

In the western part of the United States, one of the most irritating and potentially dangerous pests that you have to contend with is the red imported fire ant (RIFA). They may not be very big, but they have a truly nasty temperament and they swarm their potential threats and that can be you, your family or your pets.

The red imported fire ant

Red imported fire ant worker on tree.

The RIFA is a creature native to the warmer areas of the western hemisphere, such as Central and South America, but their range is huge, going from Peru to Brazil. They have proven to be very adaptable, and they get their name “imported” from the fact that they are not native to the United States, but were transported here. They are invasive and considered one of the worst and most invasive species in the world.

The ants are small, and they are red in color. They have been known to create very large colonies and they set up their homes in areas of dirt, which could include your garden or parts of your yard. They tend to dominate the areas that they call their homes, wiping out other insects, including ones that can be beneficial to crops.

Closeup of a fire ant hill with ants working busily.

Red imported fire ants attack in mass. They will swarm over anyone that they perceive might be a threat to their homes and what sets them apart from other ants is that they have a stinger that they can use over and over again. They also inject venom when they do that and have very strong jaws that allow them to hang on to the thing they are attacking, even when the victim is trying to brush them off, and continue stinging.

Pets and people can have very adverse reactions to Fire Ant venom that can include rashes, raised pustules and even death in smaller animals. They can be bad for humans, but they can be particularly bad for dogs and pets.

Red imported fire ants and your pets

The good news is that your pets do have a natural defense: fur. Red imported fire ants like to find the most exposed places possible in order to sting effectively. What’s more, they are very good at it. The bad news is that pets, like dogs, have exposed areas on their paws, muzzles, and around their nose and eyes. They will completely swarm a dog, getting into their mouths and anywhere else they can find to sting.

Yellow lab scratching.

For dogs, this can lead to something called pustular dermatosis, which means the sacs filled with pus appear in bunches around the sting area. For most dogs, those pustules last about 24 hours, but during that time they will swell and become very painful.

Fire ants send each other chemical signals to indicate that it is time to attack. They will usually only attack if they are disturbed, which means they may be crawling all over your dog or pet without them realizing it. When they move, the ants may signal to attack and start stinging as one, calling more and more from the nest.

Fire ant removal

Do not attempt to use water to wash the ants off of your pet. Any attempts to remove the ants from the pet can result in them swarming you and stinging, as well, so all caution should be taken. If you do attempt to use water to wash them off, they might hang on to the fur or skin and continue stinging. It is best if you attempt to use a brush to remove them.

If you find that your pet has been attacked by Red Imported Fire Ants, it is best to take them as quickly as you can to a veterinary hospital. They should be treated by a professional to ensure that proper medications and treatments are given so that minimum amounts of distress are enabled.

Yellow lab getting checked out by veterinarian wearing blue scrubs and stethoscope.

Fire ant prevention

The first thing you need to do is search your property. When the weather gets warm, there could be many potential pests, in the air and on the ground. Fire ants will make their nests in the ground and they can spread very quickly, dominating a yard.

You need to make sure that there are no nests by inspecting ant colonies. Be very cautious and make sure there are no access points anywhere within the clothing that you are wearing. Make sure pants are tucked into shoes, gloves are worn and long sleeves. They will swarm fast and attack immediately.

There are many DIY methods of dealing with red imported fire ants on the market. Be sure to read the labels. The chemicals used in them can be as dangerous to your pets and your family as the ants. Make sure that you follow the instructions for how to use them to the letter to ensure that it is administered safely and without risk of the ants attacking.

Treating fire ants can be very tricky. The sheer number of mounds and the size of their colonies make DIY treatments very difficult. This is why an integrated pest management approach is most recommended administered by pest control professionals.

Western Exterminator professionals can quickly identify red imported fire ants, discuss the best methods for treatment for you and your family, administer that treatment and then discuss the best methods for recurring treatments and prevention methods.

If you think that you might have red imported fire ants or are just planning to take care of pests in your yard for summertime activities, call the expert exterminators at Western Exterminator today!

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