A swarm of cicadas are currently emerging from a 17-year subterranean sleep across parts of the eastern United States – a group known as Brood X. While this brood is not the largest in terms of population (trillions), it is one of the largest when it comes to the amount of ground these periodical cicadas cover (15 states and Washington, D.C.).
Over the next few weeks, these red-eyed insects will take part in a noisy, monthlong mating ritual, appearing in swaths on shrubs, trees, fences, and park benches. With their inescapable presence, many of us may wonder if these winged insects pose any dangers to our pets.
To put pet owners at ease, David Wohlstadter, DVM, CCRT, Senior Clinician at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in New York, addressed some of the most pressing questions about pet safety and Brood X.
Cicadas themselves are not dangerous for dogs or cats to eat. The problem with animals eating cicadas is related to the volume consumed. Dogs can binge on many things (think about a bag of dog food or bird seed left unsupervised). Binging large volumes of cicadas can cause food bloat and may require medical care. While cicadas are not poisonous, and they do not sting, they can have pesticide on them which may be toxic depending on the amount consumed.
Allergic reactions to eating cicadas are possible but would be rare. Because cicadas are biologically similar to crustaceans like shrimp, people and pets with shellfish allergies can have allergic reactions to them. If your pet has a known allergy to shellfish, it is best to keep them indoors or closely supervise them while outdoors during the emergence of Brood X.
This would depend on the size of the pet. A few cicadas may be safe, depending on the size of the pet, but it is best to train your pet not to eat them to avoid overindulgence. Cicadas can also be a choke hazard for your pet, especially if they do not chew them.
See how your pet interacts with cicadas. If they will not stop eating them, then on-going supervision or leashing outdoors away from shrubs, trees, and fences through the duration of the emergence is recommended.
Though these insects pose little to no danger to cats and dogs, it is always best practice to keep a close eye on your pets. If you notice your pet choking, or if your pet begins to experience persistent vomiting or diarrhea, immediately call your veterinarian or bring your pet in to a local pet hospital.
Most BluePearl Pet Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide advanced emergency care to pets. Find a local BluePearl Pet Hospital.