An image of the inside of a dog’s mouth invaded by ladybugs has humans all over the country prying their pups’ jaws open to check for tiny hitchhiking “parasites.” But before you grab your dog to do the same, you should know that there’s a bit more to the story.
As the photo circulated around Facebook, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) arrived to dispel everyone’s unwarranted fear.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) chimed in as well with the story behind the dog depicted. In layman’s terms, the six-year-old mixed breed showed severe trauma to the hard palate, where several of these invasive ladybugs were embedded within the mucosa of the mouth. They required manual removal and revealed what appeared to be chemical burn beneath.
The burn was consistent with the chemical properties of the ladybugs’ blood, which contains microscopic parasites. This particular insect, the harlequin or Asian ladybug, is native to Central Asia, but it was brought to the U.S. to help control aphid populations. It now competes with our native ladybugs for food and threatens their species.
Despite this, the ladybugs do not carry disease and are not poisonous to you or your pets. They release a fluid as a defense mechanism which can cause irritation (as they did in the dog’s mouth), but any burns will heal with time and cause no lasting effects.
The AVMA suggests not worrying about the bugs unless your pet shows signs of any problems or discomfort, in which case you would typically visit your vet anyway. As always, contact your vet with any questions or concerns, and spare your pup the impromptu dental exam!