Snacking on Cicadas: Is It Safe for Pets?

May 17, 2013

Jeffrey Bickers' yard in Albemarle County has yet to be taken over by cicadas, but he has a bug-loving dog waiting for their arrival.

Like most dogs and cats around today, four-year-old Fiji has never been through a cicada cycle. He has never even seen one of the bugs. But Bickers has a pretty good idea of what his dog will do at first sight.

"He is going to bark. He is going to go crazy. I don't know what we're going to do because I know he will probably chase them like most dogs," said Bickers. "If it's like any other bug, he's going to go crazy."

Bickers may be in the clear for now, but cicadas are filling other yards across central Virginia. And pets are snacking on the critters.

Dr. John Andersen, a veterinarian at Monticello Animal Hospital, says his office has been flooded with calls from pet owners who say their animals are eating the red-eyed bugs. They want to know if consuming them could be deadly for their four-legged friends.

"Cicadas are not toxic. There's nothing in their bodies that's going to poison your dog or your cat, so you can at least rest assured there," said Dr. Andersen.

Dr. Andersen says swallowing one or two cicadas will not hurt a pet, but overindulgence, especially on their crunchy shells, could upset a pet's stomach to the point where they may need some supportive care.

"When the dogs eat that and crunch it, they've just got this hard insect shell material that's just churning around inside their stomach lining and it's likely to cause some upset stomach," he said.

Some signs of eating too many cicadas -- vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy.

"If you know your dog has definitely been out there hunting for cicadas and is pretty sick, tell your vet," said Dr. Andersen. "But it's not going to cause liver failure, kidney failure, neurological damage or anything like that."

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