Cicadas are a common insect that emerge in swarms every few years in many parts of the world. Dogs often encounter cicadas during these emergence events and may be tempted to eat them. While cicadas themselves are not toxic, dogs that consume large quantities of cicadas can experience some minor health issues.
Can dogs eat cicadas?
Yes, dogs can eat cicadas. Cicadas are not poisonous or toxic to dogs. Many dogs will eat a few cicadas they come across with no issues. However, dogs that eat a very large number of cicadas may experience some digestive upset or other minor effects.
Why do dogs eat cicadas?
There are a few reasons why dogs may be inclined to eat cicadas:
- Instinct – Dogs are natural scavengers and predators. Eating insects and other small prey is normal dog behavior.
- Taste – Some dogs seem to find cicadas palatable.
- Texture – The crunchiness of the cicada shell may appeal to some dogs.
- Curiosity – Trying new things and exploring with their mouth is common dog behavior.
- Prey drive – Dogs with high prey drives may instinctively chase and eat moving insects like cicadas.
- Boredom – Dogs who are bored or understimulated may eat cicadas for entertainment.
What happens if a dog eats a few cicadas?
If a dog eats one or a few cicadas, there will likely be no negative effects. The cicada exoskeleton contains fiber and protein that will simply pass through the dog’s digestive system without issue. Eating a few cicadas is harmless for most dogs.
What happens if a dog eats a lot of cicadas?
If a dog consumes a very large number of cicadas, some possible effects include:
- Digestive upset – Too much chitin from cicada shells may irritate the stomach and intestines, causing vomiting or diarrhea.
- Blockages or obstructions – In extreme cases, an accumulation of undigested cicada parts may potentially cause an intestinal blockage.
- Weight gain – Cicadas are high in protein, so overindulging could lead to excess calorie intake and weight gain.
- Nutritional imbalances – Too many cicadas could lead to an unbalanced diet and cause vitamin or mineral deficiencies over time.
- Allergic reaction – Dogs with cicada allergies could potentially have an allergic response or anaphylaxis.
Signs of cicada overindulgence in dogs
Some signs that indicate a dog has eaten too many cicadas include:
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain or bloating
- Difficulty defecating
- Intestinal obstruction
- Allergic reaction (e.g. hives, swelling, difficulty breathing)
If your dog displays any of these signs after eating cicadas, contact your veterinarian. Treatment may involve inducing vomiting, gastrointestinal protectants, IV fluids, and supportive care.
How many cicadas are too many for a dog?
There is no definitive number of cicadas that is considered too many for a dog. Dogs vary greatly in size, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, so the number a large dog can safely eat is much higher than for a small dog.
As a very general guideline, more than 4-5 cicadas per pound of dog body weight in a single day could potentially lead to issues. So for a 40 lb dog, more than 160-200 cicadas in one day may be cause for concern. But many factors play a role, including the dog’s health and any underlying conditions.
The best advice is to monitor your dog when cicadas are present and limit consumption to occasional snacking. Contact your vet if you notice any signs of stomach upset after your dog eats cicadas.
How to keep dogs from eating too many cicadas
Here are some tips to prevent your dog from overindulging on cicadas:
- Supervise your dog when outside during cicada season.
- Keep dogs leashed or inside screened tents/gazebos when cicadas are thick.
- Distract with toys and training when encountering many cicadas.
- Rotate a variety of protein-rich treats and chews to satisfy cravings.
- Ensure your dog is eating a balanced diet with proper protein sources.
- Pick up fallen cicada shells after emergence is over.
- Contact your vet at the first sign of stomach upset.
Are cicadas dangerous for dogs?
Cicadas themselves are not inherently dangerous for dogs. Cicadas do not bite or sting, and they are not poisonous, venomous, or toxic to dogs. However, there are some secondary hazards related to cicadas that dog owners should be aware of:
- Choking hazard – Cicada shells and body parts could potentially present a choking risk. This is most likely in small dog breeds.
- Intestinal blockages – While rare, a large accumulation of undigested cicada parts could cause a blockage.
- Insecticides – Cicada killer insecticides may be used to control emerging cicadas. Ensure your dog does not ingest contaminated cicadas.
- Disease vectors – Periodical cicadas spend years underground and could hypothetically transmit diseases. But there are no documented cases of cicadas transmitting diseases to dogs.
- Physical harm – Dogs could potentially choke or sustain mouth injuries from crunching on hard cicada shells.
While direct toxicity is not a concern, dogs that eat too many cicadas are at risk for gastrointestinal upset, blockages, and nutritional imbalance. Cicada moderation is key to keeping your dog safe and healthy.
Can cicadas hurt dogs if they are eaten?
Cicadas are unlikely to directly hurt or harm dogs if eaten in small to moderate quantities. However, dogs that eat a very large number of cicadas could potentially experience:
- Digestive upset – Significant vomiting and/or diarrhea from irritation of the GI tract.
- Intestinal blockages or obstructions – Can require emergency surgery if severe.
- Nutritional imbalances – Eating too many cicadas could lead to vitamin/mineral deficiencies long-term.
- Insecticide toxicity – If cicadas have been sprayed with insecticides harmful to dogs.
- Mouth or gastrointestinal injuries – From crunching hard cicada shells.
- Allergic reaction – Could progress to anaphylaxis in dogs with cicada allergies.
Leaving the occasional cicada snack alone is ideal. Seek veterinary care if signs of GI upset occur after eating many cicadas.
Nutritional composition of cicadas
Cicadas are high in protein, fiber, fat, and certain vitamins and minerals. Here is the approximate nutritional composition of cicadas:
|Amount per 100g of cicada
Cicadas contain more protein than many other insects and are a good source of fiber. But overindulging could lead to nutritional imbalance in dogs long-term.
Cicada facts and myths
Here are some interesting facts and common myths about cicadas:
- Cicadas are not locusts – they are distinct species.
- Most cicadas live 2-5 years underground before emerging.
- Periodical cicada broods emerge on 13 or 17 year cycles.
- Annual cicada species emerge every year.
- Cicada nymphs feed on sap from tree roots underground.
- Adult cicadas do not eat – they live only to mate and lay eggs.
- Female cicadas can lay 300-600 eggs in tree branches.
- Cicadas make loud buzzing or clicking sounds to attract mates.
- Cicada sounds can reach 100 decibels, similar to a lawnmower.
- Cicada molting shells and empty egg nests are common sights during emergences.
- Myth: Cicadas sting or bite. False – they have no stingers or biting mouthparts.
- Myth: Cicadas can hurt pets. False – they are harmless unless pets have allergies or eat way too many.
- Myth: Cicadas damage gardens and crops. False – they do no real damage and don’t feed on plants.
- Myth: Cicadas transmit diseases. False – there are no known diseases transmitted by North American cicadas.
- Myth: Cicadas come every year. False – Most cicadas emerge on multi-year cycles, not annually.
- Myth: Cicadas can be controlled with pesticides. False – Their sheer numbers make control impossible with chemicals.
Learning facts about cicadas can help understand these intriguing insects and differentiate truth from fiction.
Dogs eating a few cicadas generally experience no ill effects aside from some crunchy snacks. But canine overindulgence on large quantities of cicadas can potentially cause minor digestive upset, nutritional issues, and very rarely intestinal blockages. While not toxic, cicadas should be treated as an occasional treat for dogs. With proper canine supervision and moderation, dog owners can feel at ease letting their dogs experience these fascinating insect emergences safely.