Are cicadas dangerous for your pets to eat? A Virginia Beach veterinarian weighs in

Cicadas Return
Posted at 4:09 AM, May 03, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - If you love your pet like I do, then chances are you want to do everything you can to keep them safe. In part, that means watching whatever they put in their mouths.

With the year of the cicada upon us, you'll want to be especially cautious of your four-legged friends.

"A lot of times, dogs like them. They're little snacks; they're little mobile Reese's cups," said Dr. Andrew Silverstone at the Veterinary Hospital of Virginia Beach.

Brood X cicadas are here in Virginia after spending some 17 years underground. Over the next few weeks, one step outside and you'll hear what the buzz is all about.

Dr. Silverstone said what's an annoyance for some folks could be a tasty treat for the tail-waggers in your life. But the big question people have is: Is ingesting a cicada dangerous?

The answer is two-fold.

Silverstone said, "The cicada itself is not toxic or harmful to your pet, but your pet can get an upset stomach, which could lead to diarrhea or throwing up, which can be a bit more serious of a problem if your pet indulges and eats too many."

Silverstone said the reason is because most cicadas are pretty rigid, meaning they have a rigid exoskeleton. He explained that many times, their exoskeletons are what's irritating the lining of the digestive tract as they work their way down.

He said, "A very good comparison would be if you were to eat the shells of a shrimp."

So, how can we protected a fascinated Fido? Silverstone said to put your dogs on a leash and if possible, keep them away from trees. He also suggests staying away from using pesticides on the cicadas because they can still be dangerous to pets and other wildlife that tries to eat them.

"If you feel your pet is sick and you have a regular vet, give them a call, ask them what they'll do. If you have an established relationship with that vet, they'll be able to help you quicker," he said.