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What happens if a dog eats an insect?

cream coloured dog looking at ant on a flower
© Taleon Diegues - Shutterstock

Unfortunately, dogs love eating things that they’re not supposed to...including bugs! Luckily, most are safe to ingest. You just have to know which ones aren’t!

By Justine Seraphin

Published on the 15/08/2021, 17:00

During the warmer months of the year, it’s quite common to see insects or bugs flying around everywhere. If your dog has an excitable, curious nature, then they’re likely chasing after those bugs!

So what happens if your dog actually catches and eats a bug? Most of the time, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Dogs love the chase, and insects can be a good source of protein for them! 

However, as with everything else, there are exceptions. Some bugs are venomous, poisonous, or just plain difficult to ingest or digest. So to prepare for a safe and fun rest of the summer with your dog, here’s everything you need to know about dogs eating bugs.

Can dogs eat cicadas?

Cicadas aren’t toxic to dogs, but they have tough shells that are difficult to digest. If your dog eats too many of them, it could cause a gastrointestinal upset, with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, and a poor appetite. Unfortunately, dogs seem to love the taste of cicadas! So make sure you keep an eye open for them when you’re outside with your pooch. 

Can dogs eat rolly pollies?

Rolly pollies (pill bugs) aren’t toxic to dogs, but they do have a bitter taste. If your dog chomps down on one, it could cause excessive drooling or vomiting. If ingested in large quantities, these bugs can form a bezoar (a hard mass) inside the dog’s mouth or stomach, which will require veterinary intervention to remove. Best to steer clear of them!

Can dogs eat flies?

In general, flies are harmless for dogs to ingest. Plus, they’re great fun to chase! However, flies do ingest poop, so have the potential to transmit worms to your dog. The best way to keep this from happening? Make sure your dog takes their worm medication regularly.

Can dogs eat moths?

Yes, if your dog manages to catch and ingest a moth, no need to worry. Moths aren’t toxic or dangerous for dogs to ingest. Butterflies, however, are a whole different matter. Butterflies feed on milkweed, which is toxic to dogs - they can therefore be dangerous to dogs if ingested. Sadly, butterflies can be particularly tempting to dogs because of the way they flutter around, so make sure you stay vigilant around them.

What if my dog eats stink bugs?

Similarly to other beetles such as the June bug or rolly polly, stink bugs aren’t toxic but can cause drooling and vomiting due to their bitter taste. If ingested in large quantities, they can also form a large mass inside your dog’s stomach, which is likely to require veterinary intervention to remove.

What if my dog ate a June bug?

If your dog is eating May bugs, also known as June bugs, just make sure it’s not in huge quantities. While these beetles aren’t toxic to dogs, they do have a bitter taste which can cause excessive drooling or vomiting if your dog bites down into one. 

What if my dog ate a spider?

Most spiders are harmless to dogs, but it’s best not to encourage your dog to chase after them, as some of them can be venomous. If your dog ingests a Brown Recluse or a Black Widow, for example, they could get very sick.

Is it bad for dogs to eat ants?

In general no, ants are harmless and a great source of protein. But be careful of fire ants! These ones can sting, which can be quite painful!

What if my dog ate a dead bug?

The danger of eating a dead bug all comes down to this: Was the bug safe to ingest in the first place? If you have any doubts, go visit your veterinarian for advice.

What other bugs should I watch out for?

  • Cockroaches: Cockroaches feed on poop, and so can transmit worms to your dog.
  • Snails and slugs: Both can cause lungworm in your dog if ingested.
  • Bees and wasps: For obvious reasons! While they’re not poisonous to dogs, a sting inside the mouth or throat can cause serious respiratory issues. 
  • Crickets and grasshoppers: In small quantities, these are unlikely to cause harm to your dog. However, both can carry parasites and roundworms. They could also carry pesticides on them if they’ve been hopping around in nearby farming fields.
  • Caterpillars: The hairs on caterpillars can cause severe allergic reactions, shock, and/or intestinal problems. Caterpillars can also poison dogs if they’ve eaten milkweed or ragwort. 
  • Fireflies: When threatened, fireflies release a chemical which is highly toxic to dogs and other animals, including us! Luckily, for large animals, it only causes an upset stomach. But for smaller ones, like cats or small dogs, it can be fatal.
  • Asian Lady Beetles: Though they look harmless, they can cause serious chemical burns in your dog’s mouth and stomach if ingested in large quantities.  

If you have any doubts about your dog’s state of health, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian

How to stop my dog from eating bugs

If your dog is an avid bug-eater, there are three main ways you can try to stop them from eating bugs in the summer.

1. Teach them the “leave it” command

This could take some time, especially for the most energetic pups out there. But, with patience and consistency, it’s possible! Essentially, it boils down to rewarding your pup for ignoring something interesting, and associating that action with the words “leave it”.

2. Restrain them

If you’re going through a bug-heavy area (maybe an area with tall vegetation or water), you might want to restrain your dog for a while. By keeping your dog on a lead, you’re sure to be able to pull them away from any dangerous bugs before it’s too late!

3. Put a basket muzzle on them

If your dog is the kind of pet who just can’t help themselves from eating everything in sight while out on walks, a basket muzzle could be a good solution. This will enable your dog to continue breathing and sniffing normally, all the while making sure they can’t get their mouth on anything dangerous.

As long as you supervise your dog when outdoors, you should be fine. Here’s to a happy and healthy rest of the summer!

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