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Can Dogs and Cats Eat Cicadas?

photo of Brood V cicada
A Northeast Ohio vet describes what cicadas might do to your pet's stomach.

Ohio is about to experience the once-every-17-year emergence of Brood V cicadas, which provide a rare treat for dogs and cats. But the crunchy creatures are not always a guilt-free snack.

Billions of the buzzing bugs will emerge from the soil in the coming weeks for their short mating season. During that time, pets will have a good time eating the arthropods, which are not toxic and don’t bite.

Tim DeRosa, a veterinarian from Boston Heights, says t’s fine for pets to indulge -- but not over-indulge –since there’s one part of the insect that could cause short-term vomiting or diarrhea.

“They have a chitinous exoskeleton. Chitin is actually a carbohydrate. It’s a structural carbohydrate as opposed to a nutritional one. And no mammals have the ability or enzymes to digest that; they can’t get any nutrition from it.

“The hardness could kind of be abrasive against the lining of the digestive system and cause a minor, very short-term problem. You could have a vomiting episodes or a slight amount of diarrhea."

While dogs typically eat dead cicadas off the ground, DeRosa says cats usually enjoy chasing live ones. Either way, he says the muscle inside the cicadas provides good nutrition.

DeRosa says a much larger threat at this time of year – every year – is from disease-carrying fleas and ticks.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.