Bailey, like many dogs, fancies himself a mighty bug hunter. "Anything he can chase, like flies, gnats," Frances Jirik, Bailey's owner, told KAKE News. The Hoisington, Kansas, woman brought Bailey to the veterinarian in October 2016 when she noticed that he was lethargic, refusing food and foaming at the mouth.
Dr. Lindsay Mitchell was shocked when she opened Bailey's jaws and discovered 30 to 40 Asian lady beetles stuck to the roof of his mouth. The beetles produce a toxic chemical that causes an ulceration in soft tissue. According to Dogster, if the dog swallows the beetles, ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract may occur; if severe, a life-threatening bleeding situation may develop, called hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.
"Definitely it's painful," Mitchell told KWCH. "They’ll have some pain, they won’t want to eat as well, and they run the chance of infection if they have those ulcers there."
Asian lady beetles were brought to this country to control crop-eating aphids, but they've become a problem of their own. They are pushing out the native ladybug, their bites sting and their tendency to swarm on structures is a nuisance for homeowners.
The problem is especially bad in Kansas this year. "[T]his is the first year that we’ve had a major issue in the state of Kansas with the sugar cane aphid in the sorghum fields," Barton County Extension agent Alicia Boor told KWCH. "[So] they produced a lot of lady bugs [sic] to be able to attack and eat and control the aphids."
Mitchell took a photo of Bailey's mouth and posted it on the vet clinic's Facebook page to warn other pet owners of the potential problem. The photo's authenticity was initially questioned because the condition is so rare, but Mitchell was able to produce a 2008 journal article documenting another incident, and Bailey was the second dog she had personally treated.
Fortunately, the beetles are fairly easy to remove. Mitchell says that if you see beetles in your dog's mouth, try using a finger or tongue depressor to scrape them out, if your dog will let you.