INDIANAPOLIS – Cicadas may be a crunchy, tasty snack for humans and animals – but too much of anything is bad, and some dogs have gotten sick from eating the insects.
The cause of your canine friend’s stomach ache is pretty much what you might expect: you just ate too much.
“The thing about cicadas is that they’re not poisonous … they don’t bite and they don’t sting. So in and of themselves they are not dangerous, ”said Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club. “But as with everything else, when they do it in excess.”
Periodic cicadas appeared in the trillions of the United States last month after spending 17 years underground. The members of Brood X, the name for this cycle of the emergence of the cicadas, are loud and they are everywhere.
Wildlife will feast on these cicadas when they emerge. After all, they’re an easy source of protein for squirrels, rabbits, and other animals. Dogs and cats also tend to eat the rumbling insects.
This is not a problem in and of itself, say experts. Eating a cicada or two won’t harm your dog. But their exoskeletons and shells are difficult to digest, and eating too many of them can destroy a dog’s digestive system.
“Your exoskeletons contain a material that can be very difficult to digest,” said Elizabeth Barnes, an exotic forest pest educator at Purdue University or throw up. “
If a dog eats too many cicada shells, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite. If this happens, experts say you should take your pet to the vet and may need intravenous fluids, pain, stomach protectants, or nausea medication. Although most Indianapolis veterinarians have not seen pets infected with cicadas, some offices with the Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network, have confirmed that they have seen some of them eat too many of the insects.
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Some dogs may be more sensitive to others and, on rare occasions, your dog may be allergic to the cicada pods and require even more attention.
In even rarer cases, dogs have died from eating too many cicada shells.
But overall, problems caused by eating too many cicadas are unusual, Klein said. He hasn’t seen many cases in his 35 years as an ambulance.
In fact, there are far more pressing dangers dogs face in summer, such as heat stroke or fights in dog parks.
“We have to put things into perspective,” said Klein. “It really wasn’t much.”
However, if you are concerned about your pet eating cicadas, Klein suggests monitoring them closely while they are outside. And although surfacing is only supposed to take about six weeks, the shells stay on the ground longer. So, if you have clam scraps in your yard, you may want to rake or pick them up so your dog doesn’t eat them.
Barnes also points out that cicadas can be covered in insecticides that people use to protect their trees and plants. If dogs eat cicada pods or dead cicadas on the ground, they may ingest this insecticide too.
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If your dog is acting strange, call your veterinarian.
“Don’t panic if your dog eats cicadas. But at the same time, I wouldn’t necessarily encourage my pet to eat it, ”Barnes said. “When people are worried or just throw up a lot … vet just to make sure everything is okay.”
Follow IndyStar reporter London Gibson on Twitter @londongibson.
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.