By: Dr. Hackett
Fire Ants arrived in the United States in 1938 at the port of Mobile, Alabama aboard a ship from South America. Since that day they have steadily moved north toward East Tennessee. They have arrived. I found four nests in my yard in Solway last year and three more this spring. Oak Ridge National Lab has a report of them on their property as well. I spoke with a client who found two nests on his property in Morgan County.
What makes Fire Ants different?
The fire ant is unlike the ants we are used to in East Tennessee because they actually grab their victims with their pinchers like any ant could and then deliver a sting from a stinger in their abdomen. The sting contains a venom similar to a bee. When their nest is disturbed by an animal or human walking past they boil out of their nest in huge numbers and attack in force.
How do I know if there are Fire Ants in my yard?
The fire ant’s nest is a 5-6 inch high mound of dirt in a sunny area of your yard. They just seem to suddenly appear. There are no holes in the top of the mound as we are used to seeing and no ants are visible until they are disturbed. The ants themselves are intermediate in size between the small red ants and large black carpenter ants we are used to seeing in our yards. The ants are red in the head area and black in the abdomen.
How dangerous are the Fire Ants?
The sting of the ants causes a red welt which turns to a blister in 24 hours. Infection can result if the blister is scratched and opened. Young or small animals and children are at greatest risk due to their size and proximity to the ground. The stings can result in allergic reactions in some animals and people. In the U.S. , the ants result in an estimated 1 billion dollars of agricultural losses per year. This as compared to the estimated 1.5 billion dollars caused by termites.
Controlling Fire Ants
Using chemicals to control fire ants involves treating their nests and watering the surface to allow the insecticide a chance to penetrate the nest which may be five feet deep. The queens, there may be as many as five or more per nest, only eat food first eaten by the workers. Thus if the insecticide acts quickly it may never reach the queens. Each and every nest needs to be treated. The nests rechecked for live ants and retreated if necessary. Many recommended non-insecticide treatments are to be found ……club soda, baking soda, vinegar, molasses, plaster of Paris, and artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately none of these do little more than encourage the ants to move their mound at most. Dish washing soap mixed with citrus oil does seem to have some effectiveness. Mowing frequently and at a short level discourages the mound building. They prefer sun so shady areas are less likely to be invaded. There are flies which attack the ants and they have been imported in some southern states to limit the fire ants.
This is what a typical Fire Ant mound looks like. If you did not know any better you would think it was just a pile of dirt.
Here is a size comparison photo of the mound and a dime.
If you look closely, you can see the Fire Ants. This picture was taken after they had been disturbed. Unlike other ants, the Fire Ant does not hang out at the top of the mound unless attack.
This is Jasmine, one of Dr. Hackett and Jan’s Italian Grey Hounds, she was and unfortunate victim of an attack by Fire Ants.
As mentioned above, there are chemicals that are made to eradicate the mounds. Spectracide Fire Ant Killer is the brand that Dr. Hackett used to get rid of his Fire Ant infestation.
Here is a video of the Fire Ants when they are disturbed from their mound.
1. Lilies (Easter lily and other Lily plants)
Lilies are HIGHLY toxic to cats. All parts of these pretty flowers are toxic to cats and can lead to kidney failure resulting in death. There are many other plants and flowers that are toxic to our furry family members so if you are not sure if your plants and flowers are safe, keep them away from your pets. Visit www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/Plants.aspx for a searchable plant database.
2. Easter Grass
Cats (and some dogs) love to play with this pretty “grass” but it can be very dangerous if eaten. It can easily become stuck in the intestines requiring emergency surgery to remove it. If you have pets, don’t use Easter Grass in your Easter baskets.
Chocolate is very dangerous for our puppy pals. There are two ingredients (caffeine and theobromine) that are toxic and these ingredients are present in varying amounts in different types of chocolate. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are the most dangerous.
This artificial sweetener is used in many sugar free candies and baked goods. It is VERY dangerous for dogs and can be fatal if eaten in even small amounts.
5. Lawn and Garden Herbicides and Pesticides
Spring is a common time to treat our yards to help control weeds and insects but keeping our yards pretty may harm our pets. Dogs and cats can become ill from exposure to some of these products. If possible, try to avoid using herbicides and pesticides or use non-toxic alternatives.
6. Snail and Slug Bait (Metaldehyde)
Many people use this to help remove snails and slugs from their yards but it is very toxic to dogs even in small doses. The “bait” is made into pellets (which dogs often readily eat) liquids and powders (which dogs often lick off their paws). Toxic symptoms occur quickly resulting in seizures, high body temperature and even death.
7. Flea and Tick Treatments
Fleas and ticks are a major concern in our area but some of the treatments can also be concerning. It is very important to use APPROPRIATE flea and tick preventatives on your pets to keep them safe. Be sure you are using a product we recommend at Pellissippi Veterinary Hospital at the correct dose and NEVER use dogs products on cats (they can be deadly).
8. Household Cleaners
Be sure when you are starting your “spring cleaning” your pets are safely put away or you are using cleaners that are labeled as being safely used around pets. Remember cats and dogs will lick cleaners off their feet and that can be very dangerous.
If you have any questions or concerns please give us a call at (865)691-8387!
Here are some reasons why the holidays are not a good time for new pets.
*Holiday visitors may frighten the new pet and he or she may become weary of strangers at the outset.
*The activites in the household may pose safety hazards for the young animal. An abundance of rich foods and various decorations could be ingested, potentially causing illness.
*New pets should be carefully supervised around children to see how they behave. A child may not be accustomed to handling a puppy or kitten and could injure the animal. Similarly, the pet may be skittish and lash out at the child. Adults busy with holiday obligations may be easily distracted and miss how their child is interacting with the new pet.
*Once the glow of the holiday wears off, children may be disillusioned with the new responsibility that has fallen into their hands. They may not like the responsibility that has fallen into their hands. They may not like the responsibility that comes with being a good pet owner.
Reputable pet breeders and animal shelters often discourage individuals from adopting or purchasing pets as holiday gifts. Many organizations and animal businesses require a careful vetting of potential pet parents to ensure the animal wll be placed with a family and in a home that is suitable.
Animal welfare groups warn that an estimated 50 percent of pets adopted during the holidays end up right back at the shelters. This can scar the pet. Avoid the temptation of giving a companion animal as a present. If it is your intention to gift an animal, talk to the gift recipient and discuss the pros and cons beforehand.
Never sedate an animal who will be in the cargo hold.
Inspect your carrier or crate before you go to the airport-check the security of all zippers,seams,locks,screws, and combinations.
Do not remove an unleashed pet in an open area. If security asks you to take your pet out of the carrier to be screened, ask to be put into a secure room or reach into the carrier and attach your leash.(Be sure your pet cannot “back” or slip out of it’s collar before you leave home.)
If your pet is flying as checked baggage or cargo, USE ZIP TIES to latch the door shut. Make sure the top and bottom of the carrier are held together with metal screws and reinforce with additional zip ties. Do not assume the baggage handlers are animal lovers and will handle the crate with care.
Post your Pet’s picture and flight number(s) and your name and cell phone number boldy on all sides of the crate, with instructions to contact you immediately for the handling of your pet. Keep your cell phone ON whenever you are permitted to do so.
Ask a flight attendant to notify the pilot that there is a pet in the cargo hold. The pilot controls the heating and cooling of the hold.
The winter months bring joyous holiday celebrations. We want your holidays to be fun filled and safe. The following are tips to keep the holidays happy and healthy for everyone!!
The holidays are a wonderful time full of family togetherness and fantastic food. Please remember our foods are often very unhealthy for our pets. Fatty foods can lead to severe stomach problems including pancreatitis (which can be life threatening if not treated), vomiting, and diarrhea. Some foods (grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and chocolate) are toxic to our furry family members. The best plan is no table food for Fido and Fluffy.
Decorations and Pet Safety
Common Holiday Toxins
Mild Toxicity – Poinsettia leaves/stems, angel hair, tree preservatives,
super glue, balsam/pine/cedar/fir.
Moderate Toxicity – Fireplace salts, model cement, artificial snow,
High Toxicity – Mistletoe, Holly, epoxy adhesives, antifreeze,
any type of Lily (fatal to cats)
Have a safe and happy holiday season from all of us at PVH!!!