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Is It Okay for Pets to Eat Cicadas? Mostly, the Bugs are Harmless

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Depending on where you happen to live, your neighborhood may seem like a horror movie come to life. Millions of cicadas from Brood X, or the 17-year cicadas, will swarm and create a cacophony louder than several jackhammers.

They are annoying to us but otherwise harmless, although some dogs consider them an opportunity for a cicada snack.

The cicadas have already made an appearance in some places. The states most likely to experience Brood X are Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. 

When cicadas emerge from underground, they appear white. (Wouldn’t you if you had spent 17 years underground?) Once they shed their old skin and develop an exoskeleton, their yellow and black color and big red eyes will appear.

The males are responsible for the loud noises they make, all in an effort to attract a female to mate–their sole purpose other than possibly being eaten. Crunchy, high in protein, and with no defenses, they are a mark for all sorts of predators, notably birds and rodents. And sometimes dogs.

Generally speaking, there’s no harm in dogs enjoying a few of the apparently tasty six-legged treats, but some dogs gorge on dozens. This can cause gastrointestinal upset or even potentially a blockage. Cats can also get sick from feasting on too many cicadas, but they generally have sense enough to know when they’ve had their fill.

Apparently, for some dogs, cicadas are like potato chips–they can’t get enough of them. If that’s your dog, keep your pup on a leash when outdoors and prevent him from eating his fill. If necessary, get his attention and entice him with a more appropriate treat that won’t upset his tummy. Fortunately, this isn’t forever as the cicada explosion is already on its way out and should be over by mid-July.

As a side note, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that humans allergic to seafood shouldn’t eat cicadas (which some say taste like asparagus).

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Steve Dale, CABC (certified animal behavior consultant) has written and contributed to many books about pets; hosts three radio shows; contributes to Veterinary Practice News, CATSTER and others; is on the Board of Directors of the Human Animal Bond Association and Winn Feline Foundation, and is chief correspondent for Fear Free Happy Homes. He speaks at conferences worldwide. His blog: www.stevedale.tv

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