Ok, this is actually a controversial issue. Some people believe that Little Fire Ants can sting domestic animals on the eyes and that this can cause tropical keratopathy - a clouding of the cornea leading to partial blindness. I am one of those that believes this to be the case but I can not offer any rigorous scientific data to support this belief. All I know is that when I visit an area infested with LFA anywhere in the world, I see a lot more animals with corneal damage than when I'm somewhere else.
Keratopathy can be caused by a whole bunch of other stuff, and this makes it difficult to prove LFA have a part in it. Basically, some physical damage to the cornea allows bugs to get in and cause the cloudiness we see. And... domestic pets are forever fighting and walking into prickles etc.
On the other hand, some people disagree strongly that this is the case, and some of those people are veterinarians. The only veterinarian ophtamologist (eye doctor) in Hawaii, Dr Maya Yamagata, does not agree with me on this. Now, I'm a bug guy, and she is a specialist eye doctor. So... she is the expert on pets and her opinion should carry more weight than mine.
The ONLY study on the relationship between eye damage in pets and Little Fire Ants that I know of was done by Dr Leonard Theron, a veterinarian in Tahiti. His study was an epidemiological one which means what he did was correlate instances of this affliction with the presence or absence of Little Fire Ants at the pet's homes. However, he established a very strong circumstantial case to support the idea this affliction can be caused by LFA.
This type of study is not definitive because causality is not established - only a link between the condition and the presence of the ant. Ideally, we would get a bunch of puppies, tie them down and have them stung by LFA, then see what happens. Folks, that ain't gonna happen, and if it did, I would not be a part of it.
So in the meantime, I'm collecting images of afflicted animals and I will post them here. Hopefully one day I can conduct an epidemiological study here in Hawaii.
The Good Shepherd Foundation, directed by Sydney Singer and Soma Grismaijer are also investigating this issue. Visit their website www.fireanteye.org
Do Little Fire Ants cause blindness in pets?
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