Are Cicadas Harmful to My Dog?

Many dog owners may be wondering if it is safe for their pet to snack on cicadas, since billions of periodical cicadas are emerging from the ground across the East Coast.

By | Posted: May 15, 2013, 8 a.m. EDT

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Border Terrier eating a CicadaCicadas, the pesky, large-eyed, noisy insects that periodically overpopulate large areas of the US. Interestingly, most cicadas belong to the genus Tibicen, also known as "dog-day” cicadas as they usually appear in late July and August. 

There are no identified toxins that should make your dog sick from eating Cicadas, says Jon Geller, DVM. There are no reports to the animal poison control center of cicadas being a problem, either. However it is possible your dog could get sick from eating large quantities of any unfamiliar "food.”

"While they might be a nuisance, they don’t sting, they don’t bite, and they don’t carry disease," says Shelly Rubin, DVM, a Chicago veterinarian and American Veterinary Medical Association member.

Cicadas are eaten as part of a human diet in some places of the world, Rubin says. Dog owners may want to monitor their pets while they’re outside to ensure that they don’t overindulge in a cicada meal. However, the sheer number of bugs in some places will make it impossible to prevent a dog from eating a few.

As multiple broods of 17-year cicada’s prepare to hatch, veterinarian Brian Collins of the Cornell University Hospital for Animals advises dog and cat owners to do their best to discourage pets from ingesting the cicadas. 

"As tempting as bugs may be, the outer skeleton of the cicada contains a tough material called chitin that is problematic when eaten in large quantities. Chitin is also found in lobster shells. If your dog or cat eats cicadas, it is akin to you eating a lobster shell. If enough are consumed, your companion animal may experience vomiting or constipation and require a visit to the veterinarian.”

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Judi   Phoenix, Arizona

6/18/2013 1:50:37 PM

This is the third year my yard has been infested with the Cicada. UGH! My Cavalier King Charles is crazy for them and hunts like a wild animal to locate the discarded skeleton or better yet, the whole insect. I do my best to limit her intake, since overindulgence has been known to produce digestive upset. The last thing I want to do is sit up all night with a dog that has a belly ache. Leashing her when she ventures out at night to take care of business, is the only remedy I've come up with. Blondie is not happy with the restrictive nature of our new routine. Any suggestions?

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Sarah - 243618   Port Charlotte, FL

5/20/2013 1:20:20 PM

Thanks for the update. I did wonder about our dogs eating things like this. On a brighter note: Our first dog we taught to say please and one day while out with him he saw a bug and said please before eating it. It was comical. I don't think it was a cicada though.

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