If you’ve got a feisty pup who loves to chomp whatever is in sight, you’ve likely fished a lot out of that slobbery mouth. And with cicada season upon us, the feast may just be getting started.
In the U.S., we are about to see the emergence of trillions of cicadas across 15 Midwestern and east coast states, as well as Washington, D.C. This swarm is estimated to be as dense as 1.5 million cicadas per acre, which means if you live in one of these areas, your dog is about to witness an insect invasion of Biblical proportions!
Once the swarm begins, your dog may want to catch a taste of
this unusual creature, but are cicadas safe for dogs to eat? In short, yes,
your dog will be fine eating a few cicadas, but there are some things you
should know about these insects before letting your dog feast on them.
Cicadas are black insects with red eyes that look like something out of a horror movie, especially when they come out in swarms. Devoured by many species of animals, including chipmunks, birds, raccoons and even turtles, cicadas have developed a unique survival adaptation wherein they hibernate underground from 1 to 17 years, then emerge in huge numbers to ensure that some of them are able to mate before being eaten.
We are about to experience the emergence of a 17-year type of periodical cicada, and the brood is expected to be huge! With bodies measuring around 1.5 inches, these bugs will fill the air with the sound of their wings and mating songs. Once mated, they then lay their eggs on tree branches and die, leaving their corpses behind to litter the ground. The nymphs hatch from the eggs in 6 to 8 weeks, fall from the branches, then burrow into the ground where they will eat tree sap from roots for the next 17 years when they will emerge again.
If you live in one of the affected states, you will definitely see and hear them. Whether burrowing under the ground, flying through the air or hanging off trees and bushes, your dog could easily be attracted to these creatures and might chomp down a few. Luckily, cicadas aren’t poisonous, they don’t carry diseases, and they don’t bite or sting. But they can be hard to digest, so you should discourage your dog from eating a lot of them. Here’s why:
- Cicadas have hard exoskeletons. When crunched up and eaten, that exoskeleton can have sharp edges that can cause injuries, and doesn’t digest very easily. Pair that with legs and wings that are like hooks, and you’ve got quite the stomach and intestinal irritant. In large amounts, cicadas can cause varying levels of digestive complaints, including vomiting, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain, which could lead to dehydration.
- Cicadas can be a choking hazard. While large breeds may have no problem swallowing these large insects, smaller dogs are at risk of choking on them, especially those with a narrow trachea or esophagus such as Pugs and Shih Tzus. But if your larger pooch is gobbling them down quickly without chewing, they could also be at risk of choking.
- Cicadas could contain pesticides. While they don’t carry diseases and aren’t toxic themselves, cicadas can contain pesticides, which in large amounts could be harmful to your dog. It can be hard to predict if the cicadas in your yard are pesticide free, even if you don’t use pesticides around your home, as they could have emerged from an area where pesticides were used, and then traveled.
- Cicadas could cause an allergic reaction. Although rare, eating these bugs could cause an allergic
response in your dog, especially if they are allergic to shellfish. Since
cicadas are genetically similar to crustaceans, if your dog has a known shellfish allergy,
you’d better keep them out of your furry furiend’s mouth.
If your dog is the gorging type, be sure to supervise their time outside during the 6-week cicada season, as leaving them by themselves could get them into trouble. Some dogs may be able to hear the cicadas burrowing underground, so prevent them from digging during this time as well. You may need to leash or muzzle them until they are safely back inside.
You can also teach your dog a “Leave it” command, which will prove invaluable on walks, hanging out in the yard, and anytime outdoor adventure calls, whether or not it’s cicada season. And you may want to consider raking up the dead cicadas from your yard to reduce the temptation for your pooch.
If your dog gets a mouthful of cicadas anyway, just watch
for signs of trouble. For dogs who get a cicada stuck in their throat, but can
still breathe, try feeding them a piece of bread to help push it down, then talk
with your veterinarian. If you notice signs of digestive issues or an allergic
reaction, which can include excessive itching, or reddened or swelled skin, see
your veterinarian immediately for treatment.
Overall, your dog can safely munch on a few cicadas, just don’t
let them overindulge or you may have one unhappy hound!