Asian Lady Beetle
Looking for aphids


March is finally here, and with it heralds the beginning of three whole months of wonderful gardening opportunities that lay ahead. Prepping is already well underway in many places for this summer’s flower and vegetable gardens. What we might not think about when we’re planting, though, is that some of our handiwork can eventually attract critters that are actually harmful to pets. One such pest or pests are known as Asian lady beetles, and these innocent-enough-looking little ladybugs can wreak absolute havoc on the inside of an animal’s mouth.

Asian Lady Beetles

While perhaps not technically a ladybug, the little Asian lady beetle sure looks like one. Also known as harlequin ladybird and Harmonia axyridis, the multicolored Asian beetle is considered one of the most variable species in the world, boasting an exceptionally wide range of color forms. Originally introduced in this country by the U.S.D.A. beginning in the 1960s for the purpose of controlling agricultural pests, they’ve since made a nuisance of themselves through the infestation of dwellings and by affecting the quality of life for many since their spread.


Asian lady beetles
Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home!

Asian Lady Beetles & Pets

The thing about this insect is that they consume large numbers of aphids, the bane of many a gardener. While this is a huge plus if you’ve got plants that attract aphids, the benefit of the beetles might not be worth what their appearance on your property could mean for your pets. Late last fall in Kansas, one veterinarian was seeing more than a case a day of a frightening Asian lady beetle infestation — not in any structures, however, but in dogs. Entirely covering the roofs of their mouths, like something straight out of a horror story, dozens of these bugs had attached themselves to the animals’ palates, inflicting painful bites in the process. One dog had between 30 and 40 bugs removed!

Asian Lady Beetle Infestation in Pets

Fortunately, so far these pest infestations in pets are still relatively uncommon, but as the bugs grow in number and continue to spread across the continent recorded incidents will rise. The signs of an Asian lady beetle infestation in dogs have been reported to include lethargy, apparent loss of appetite and foaming at the mouth. As it turns out, the loss of appetite is actually a mouth too painful to eat, the lethargy is from not feeling good, and the foaming at the mouth is probably from difficulty swallowing. All in all it’s awful.


Asian Lady Beetles
Infestation of Asian lady beetles in dog's mouth (image via KAKE)

Home Treatment Options

While it’s not exactly clear how this many beetles are finding their way into the mouths of the animals afflicted, there is one bright spot to this story: if it happens, you can save yourself a trip to the vet by scraping the bugs out yourself — if your dog will let you. Yup. You can remove them with your fingers (if you’ve got the stomach for it) or scrape them off gently with a spoon or some other rounded object small enough to do the job. Just be careful and work slowly. Your pet should begin to respond almost immediately. If they don’t show signs of improvement within 12-24 hours, consult your veterinarian.