My dog ate a cicada! Are cicadas poisonous to dogs?

By Katie Cook and Dr. Justine Lee, Pet Poison Helpline®

CicadaIf you live on the East coast (between New York and Georgia), get ready for the 2013 swarm of Brood II cicadas (Magicicada septendecim). These hardy insects will begin their cyclic activities in late May and early June before hiding out for another 17 years.

There are 12 different types of 17-year cicadas.  Each year between April and June, one or two separate broods emerges in a different part of the U.S.

Both you and your pet probably recognize the sound of cicadas.  The males “sing” the song using their tymbal membranes on their abdomens to make their loud sounds, while the females respond with clicking their wings. Swarms can range from several thousand to 1.5 million per acre, and will be visible on the sides of the trees, houses, on shrubbery, etc.

Once mates are established, the cicadas dig holes in tree branches, where they lay their eggs, and then die. Meanwhile, the eggs mature and hatch within six to eight weeks. The not yet fully grown nymphs then drop from the branch, burrow into the ground, and feed on tree sap for the next 17 years. Since their life cycle revolves around trees, the more mature the tree, the more cicadas you’ll see in that area.

Once the ground temperature rises over 64 degrees, the now fully grown cicadas will start to emerge. This generally happens around late May, and is estimated to occur around May 21 this year. Another factor that can alter their emergence is rain, as the ground needs to be soft enough for them to get through.

Finishing the cycle, the adult cicadas will all die off by mid-June. Then in about a month, the eggs they’ve laid (about 400 for each female) in tree branches will hatch, and their offspring will fall to the ground, where they’ll dig in, starting the next 17 year cycle.

As we approach the 17 year cycling of the cicadas, pet owners are inquiring: Are they poisonous when ingested by dogs and cats?

Fortunately, cicadas don’t bite or sting so they’re not harmful to pets. Cicadas generally leave no lasting damage (except possibly to young trees and shrubs). When ingested, they can potentially result in some stomach upset in dogs and cats, as the exoskeleton may be difficult to digest.

For more information on dangerous pests and venomous creatures, check out our venomous article.

So, don’t worry too much if your pet ingests one. Instead, enjoy their hatching!