Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.
Last year, a photo on the internet caused a considerable amount of shock, especially among dog owners.
The disturbing image shows the inside of a dog’s mouth, where it appears that ladybugs — the cute, shiny little beetles known for eating aphids — embedded into the roof of its mouth. It was like something out of a horror movie, especially when you consider how cute you thought ladybugs were!
The photo claimed to be from a veterinarian’s office, where a dog came in needing the insects removed. What’s more, the insects seemed to have secreted some kind of chemical, leaving burns on the roof of the dog’s mouth.
But then the skeptics came out. They claimed the photo is fake, that someone was just messing with the internet to cause a stir. After all, who had ever seen something like this? A chemical burn from a ladybug? Ladybugs in a dog’s mouth?
Even with those qualms, though, plenty of people were worried. After all, the thought of a dog getting injured by something so unexpected would rattle any dog parent.
Well, it turns out it’s true: Many species of ladybug (and there are many), particularly the Harmonia axyridis, or Asian ladybeetle, secrete a liquid called hemolymph from their legs. The liquid smells bad and can stain, and it can also cause irritation.
However, it’s the open wound in the dog’s mouth that actually cause more of a health concern than the bites or the burns. Vets also say the ladybugs are only a real concern if there are many of them.
You might feel a slight itch if a ladybug releases its chemical onto your skin, and it’s likely more painful on a sensitive area like the inside of a mouth. But while they’re irritating, it’s not life-threatening.
The good news is that the ladybugs can be removed with fingers, a spoon, or a popsicle stick. Gross, but your dog will be OK. Smaller dogs might need to be watched to make sure they don’t swallow the bugs.
If you see any burns or bleeding, take your dog to the vet and get them patched up.