Ask Dr. Jenn: The cicadas have hatched! Are they harmful to my pets?
Are cicadas swarming your neighborhood? Find our if they're harmful to your pets.
The cicadas have hatched and are all over the place. Are they harmful to my pets?
The seventeen-year bloom of the periodic cicada, affectionately known as Brood X, is all over the news. Large swarms can be found throughout the eastern United States and the Midwest. The cicada may be loud and keep you up at night, but thankfully they are not a serious concern to your pets.
Cicadas do not bite, or sting and they are not toxic if ingested. Some creative chefs incorporate them into their recipes. (Note to self - make sure to ask the waiter what is in the “Summer Surprise Soup” before I order.) If your dog or cat eats a few cicadas, don’t be concerned. The only risk would be if your pet is allergic to these bugs and has a rare but serious allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction include swelling of the face, hives, sudden and profuse vomiting, or trouble breathing. Allergic reactions are extremely rare, and cicadas are no more likely to cause an allergic reaction than anything else your pet may eat, so this is not a huge concern.
The real concern is if your dog or cat has a large feast on cicadas. Cicadas have a hard exoskeleton, or outer shell, that the digestive system cannot break down. The shell will normally pass through the gastrointestinal tract and come out in the stool. However, if an animal eats too many in one sitting (the amount will depend on the size of the dog or cat), the exoskeletons can clump up into a large ball that is too large to pass through the GI tract leading to a bowel obstruction. Signs of an obstruction include vomiting, anorexia, abdominal pain, and lethargy. If you have any worries that your dog or cat may have an obstruction, please contact your veterinarian.
If your pets tend to over-indulge on things found outside, and you are concerned they may have a cicada feast, the best thing to do is to limit access to the cicada. Keep your cat indoors. Keep your dog on a leash.
Cicadas do not grace my part of the country, so I am not experiencing this 2021 phenomenon. But I have heard the best way to handle the cicada “Brood X” is to buy a good pair of earplugs.