Dogs Eating Cicadas: Tasty Treat or Trouble?

By Harriet Meyers (Mar 04, 2021)

Key Points

  • After a 17-year hibernation, trillions of cicadas are due to emerge in parts of the U.S.
  • Cicada exoskeletons are difficult to digest and can cause dogs to suffer serious consequences if eaten.

Sometime this spring, when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees, your dog may suddenly start digging up the yard. He can hear something you can’t yet hear – juvenile cicadas tunneling through the ground getting ready to emerge.

Most of the more than 3,000 types of cicadas appear every 2-to-5 years, and their cycles can vary. But the periodical cicadas spend exactly 13 or 17 years underground, and when they appear – trillions surface, blanketing the ground, cars, trees, and houses. According to entomologists, densities can be as great as 1.5 million cicadas per acre.

This time the big brood is coming. After a 17-year hibernation, trillions of cicadas are due to emerge in Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Cicadas Can Cause Stomach Upset

Cicadas don’t bite or sting, so no problem – right? Wrong. If you have a dog who likes to munch on whatever can be found on the ground, you need to prepare to stop him from devouring this plentiful treat.

“In most cases, your dog will be fine after eating a few cicadas,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer. “However, dogs that gorge on the large, crunchy insects will find the exoskeleton difficult to digest and can suffer serious consequences.”

According to Dr. Klein, aftereffects can include severe stomach upset and abdominal pain, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Some dogs may require intravenous fluids, pain medications, gastroprotectants, or anti-nausea drugs.

Dogs Overindulging in Cicadas Can:

  • Experience mild to serious GI upset.
  • Choke on the stiff wings or hard exoskeleton.
  • Suffer an allergic reaction.
  • Consume unhealthy amounts of pesticides.

How Long Will the Threat Last?

Cicadas live underground for most of their lives, where they drink from plant roots and develop into adults. They emerge from the ground to sing, mate, and lay eggs. The songs, sung mostly by males, can reach 100 decibels. Females lay fertilized eggs in the branches of plants, where they hatch and burrow underground. The adult cicadas die, and the world becomes a little bit quieter.

The cicada cycle will last about 6 weeks, so those emerging in mid-May should be gone by late June, depending on the weather. Then the babies or nymphs will dig into the ground to suck tree roots for another 17 years.

Of course, those tasty exoskeletons that adult cicadas shed will still be all over the ground. So you’ll need to be vigilant with your dog for a while longer.

Bottom line: Preventing your dog from eating cicadas is the safest choice. Get ahead of the game and teach the “leave it” command. And if you have a pup who likes to act like an anteater, you may need to be constant companions when he goes outside for a couple of months.