Fact Check

Are Cicadas Poisonous to Dogs?

Too much of anything isn't good.

Published May 24, 2021

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Cicadas are poisonous and dangerous for dogs to consume.

Cicadas are not poisonous to dogs, and owners shouldn't be particularly worried if their dogs eat a few. However, eating a lot of cicadas could cause digestion problems for dogs.

As Brood X cicadas emerged across the United States after 17 years, many pet owners had a worrying concern: What happens if my dog eats a cicada? Are cicadas poisonous?

The good news is that cicadas are not poisonous. The bad news is that Brood X is one of the largest broods of the 17-year-cicadas, giving dogs ample opportunities to snack on these strange bugs, and eating too many cicadas could cause digestive problems.

The Pet Poison Helpline writes that cicadas don't bite or sting and generally aren't harmful to snacking pets. The exoseleton of a cicada may be difficult to digest, however, so while eating a few cicadas probably wouldn't be harmful, pet owners should prevent their pets from feasting on these emerging bugs:

Fortunately, cicadas don’t bite or sting so they’re not harmful to pets. Cicadas generally leave no lasting damage (except possibly to young trees and shrubs). When ingested, they can potentially result in some stomach upset in dogs and cats, as the exoskeleton may be difficult to digest.

So, don’t worry too much if your pet ingests one. Instead, enjoy their hatching!

Jonathan Larson, an extension entomologist at the University of Kentucky, gave similar advice to CNET. Larson said:

"If your pet snatches a cicada while in the yard or on a walk, they will more than likely be fine. However, overindulgence on anything is bad, and this holds true with cicadas and pets ...

If your animal feasts on piles of them while they are outside, they can end up with upset stomachs, vomiting or diarrhea."

Numerous veterinarians have repeated this advice — that cicadas aren't poisonous or particular harmful to your pet but that overconsumption can lead to digestive issues.

Dr. Fidan Kaptan, a vet at County Animal Hospital in Mason, Ohio, told Fox 19: "Snacking on one or two, I think that's the point we shouldn't be concerned, but if you're seeing them [dogs] getting into more, I would say you should stop the dog ... They [cicadas] have a shell that is crunchy, and if they [dogs] do eat a lot of them, it can irritate the stomach lining and cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy."

Christine Klippen, a veterinarian at Friendship Hospital in Washington, D.C., told the Washingtonian: "Maybe [don’t leave your dog] unattended so that they can go to town and have a smorgasbord."

Dr. Jerry Klein, the chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club, said: "In most cases, your dog will be fine after eating a few cicadas ... However, dogs that gorge on the large, crunchy insects will find the exoskeleton difficult to digest and can suffer serious consequences.”

AKC notes dogs that over-consume on cicadas could experience mild to serious gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms or choke on the cicadas' hard exoskeleton. The AKC recommended that pet owners practice the "leave it" command with their dogs in order to prevent them from overeating on cicadas.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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