Can Pets Eat Cicadas? What A Vet Says You Should Know

If you can’t take your dog for a walk outside without seeing endless cicadas all over the ground, you’re probably wondering where the eff they came from and when they’ll be disappearing back into the abyss from whence they came.

These flying hellbeasts emerge from the ground every 13 or 17 years, depending on the species, first appearing in late April and peaking in early June in many parts of the United States once the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit. That means if you live where they’ve been nestled underground, there’s a good chance you’ll see them soon… if you haven’t already.

But good-ish news: If your pet can’t help themselves from munching on a cicada, there’s generally little to worry about, especially if it’s a one-off or if you’ve got a large-breed dog, veterinarian Heather Berst, VMD, with Zoetis, explains.

Why are there so many cicadas right now?

While even one cicada feels like one too many, 2024 marks a particularly prominent year for these periodical pests. Both 13-year and 17-year broods (Brood XIX and Brood XIII, respectively) are making an appearance this year, which means that residents of 18 states will witness the first occurrence of two cicada broods emerging at the same time since 1803, as CBS News reports. This won’t happen again until 2037, which is still too soon for me, but what can ya do?

Per CBS News, the dreaded dual cicada brood emergence is already (or will soon be) at its peak in parts of Illinois and Iowa, as well as parts of Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Can eating cicadas hurt my pet?

Even though they’re temporary, you might be wondering how to protect curious pets from these invasive winged creatures.

“Essentially, cicadas are not toxic, but your dog or cat could get an upset stomach and even get vomiting or diarrhea if they eat too many,” she says. “The outside of the cicada (exoskeleton) can cause their intestinal tract to become inflamed. Some dogs or cats may just be more sensitive than others to eating ‘new’ foods, and that may make their stomach upset.”

So, as Berst notes, the biggest health risk is if your dog or cat ingests too many cicadas “and develops vomiting or diarrhea.” However, she adds, “In rare cases, your pet could be allergic to them and have a more serious reaction, but that is fairly unlikely.

As for when you should seek medical care for your furry friend, she says, “If your dog or cat loses its appetite, is vomiting multiple times, or has diarrhea, I would call your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be the best judge of whether your pet needs to be seen by them.”

The only exception: “If a rare occasion happens where your pet has an allergic reaction to a cicada, I would go to a veterinarian right away,” Berst advises. “With an allergic reaction, you would see face swelling, falling over, a large amount of vomit, or maybe acting wobbly.”

How do I keep my pet from snacking on cicadas?

OK, so why do our pets feel the need to go after these pesky pests in the first place? “Dogs and cats both watch for prey that is about the size of a cicada, moves around, and makes noise, so any of those three things may predispose your pet into investigating cicadas,” she says. “Sometimes they may just want to play with them, and other times they may try and eat them.”

The key to preventing this (or at least minimizing it), she says, is working with your pet before cicada season starts. “You can work with a dog trainer or on your own to teach your dog the ‘leave it’ command,” suggests Berst. “Another method you can do with a dog or cat is to get their attention with another toy or treat to get them away from the cicada and redirect them. Provide them with positive reinforcement once you successfully redirect them. This may mean giving them a treat or praising them.”

Even if we’re in the thick of it right now, cicada season will soon pass, and they’ll leave as quickly as they arrived. Until then, deep breaths and plenty of your pet’s favorite treats and toys should help redirect their focus away from flying insects and the carcasses of cicadas who’ve passed. (Ick, I know. So sorry!)

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