We already know that dogs tend to eat the most odd things they encounter so it’s not surprising if they’re also interested in catching and eating bugs. With summer in full swing, the yard may be populated by a variety of bugs, it’s therefore not unusual for dogs to be attracted by their movements which triggers a dog’s predatory drive. One moment the dog may be chasing the bug, the next it has become his meal.. and a crunchy one too! A dog eating a bug may look like an innocent, yet gross pastime, but there are actually some dangers to be aware of that come along with this practice. But first a little head’s up: if you’re squeamish about seeing bugs, you may not want to scroll down or you may want to enlist the help of somebody who doesn’t share your entomophobia (yes, that’s the term for people who are scared of bugs!)
Besides from being creepy critters, roaches can transmit parasites to your cat or dog. Cockroaches are carriers of Physaloptera spp, also known more commonly as the stomach worm, explains veterinarian Robert R. Hase, in an article for DVM360.
In order to get this parasite, your dog will have to ingest an infected roach which acts as an intermediate host.
Once the infective larvae are ingested (they come with the roach), they will develop into worms that attach to the dog’s stomach and intestinal lining causing physalopterosis, an infection of the gastrointestinal tract.
The most common symptoms associated with this disorder are vomiting, sometimes accompanied by loss of appetite and dark feces even though some cases remain asymptomatic. Don’t expect symptoms of this infection though to occur right away; symptoms from these worms tend to develop later on once the larvae mature into adults.
Dogs who vomit shortly after eating a cockroach are likely reacting to these bugs’ hard legs and wing casings which may irritate the stomach On top of being carriers of the stomach worm, cockroaches can have a nice coating of roundworm eggs on their surface, which can be ingested when your puppy or dog plays with the roach and eats it, further adds Dr. Hase.
Among all bugs, crickets are very tempting for dogs to chase around because they hop in an unpredictable manner. Some dogs must find them tasty too as they happily chew on these crunchy bugs with a satisfied look on their faces!
Fortunately, crickets are not toxic to dogs and they’re also a good source of protein, minerals and fat, so much so that they’re eaten by people across the globe.
However, other than being a good source of nutrients, crickets as cockroaches, may also be carriers of the “stomach worm”“Physaloptera spp.” However, don’t expect for your dog to get sick with these worms immediately after ingestion, it may take time for the worms to develop and start causing problems. If your dog vomits shortly after eating a cricket, it’s most likely caused by the cricket’s rough texture which according to veterinarian Dr. Gabby may irritate the dog’s stomach.
OK, most dogs won’t eat stink bugs for the simple fact that these bugs stink! The stink bug’s secretions, which are made of chemicals known as aldehydes, act as a deterrent and will cause drooling due to their bitter taste.
Other than tasting foul, those defensive secretions can also act as an irritant. If the stink bug secretions end up in the dog’s eyes, they may cause temporary stinging and pain.
While stink bugs aren’t really toxic to dogs, dogs who manage to ingest them may develop gastrointestinal upset and vomiting that generally is self-limited and resolves on its own in over 8 to 12 hours, explains veterinarian Dr. Gary.
Cicadas along with crickets, are commonly seen in the summer and they tend to make us aware of them courtesy of their singing. If your dog eats a cicada, you will likely hear a lot of crunching as they are quite big bugs.
According to veterinarian Dr. Peter, cicadas are not toxic, but their exoskeletons can irritate the dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Affected dogs may develop mild to severe vomiting and diarrhea in some cases. The good news is that other than causing some upset stomach in dogs, these bugs don’t sting or bite.
This can be concerning, especially when the ingested spider is a venomous one and the spider has managed to bite the dog. In a case of a dog bitten by a spider upon eating it, there would be drooling and oral pain, explains Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian.
However, according to Dr. Bruce the good news is that if the dog wasn’t bitten, the venom in the spider will get diluted and the dog’s stomach acid would digest the spider, causing no problems to the dog. So, yes, it’s quite important to determine whether the dog got bitten by a toxic spider or not and watch for signs of allergic reactions or toxicity. Keeping a watchful eye and consulting with a vet when in doubt is the best course of action.
A dog eating a caterpillar can be concerning, considering that several species are toxic; therefore it all depends on the type ingested. Even if the caterpillar ingested would turn out not being toxic, the tiny hairs can cause irritation in the dog’s mouth and digestive tract.
According to veterinarian Mark Nunez, toxic caterpillars include the monarch butterfly caterpillar (which feeds on milkweed which contain chemicals that can be toxic to the heart,) the puss or asp caterpillar, the slug caterpillar, also known as saddleback, the hag moth or monkey slug, the gypsy moth which is popular in New England and the Lonomia species popular in Brazil.
When in doubt, best to consult with a vet if you suspect your dog ingested a caterpillar. Here are some pictures of stinging caterpillars from the University of Kentucky Entomology Department: Stinging Caterpillars.
Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, can look like innocent critters, but fireflies of the Photinus genus are known to stir trouble for small animals. According to Doctors Foster and Smith, the light emitted by male fireflies helps them find a soul mate, but as with other colorful insects, it also functions as a “keep away” warning for potential predators. Fireflies are known to contain toxins known as “lucibufagins” which are toxic to lizards, amphibians, birds and possibly other animals.
While just one firefly is enough to kill a lizard or bird, it’s generally not a problem for a dog though, explains veterinarian Dr. Whitehead. However, it’s best monitor for any signs of trouble and promptly consult with the vet or the pet poison helpline if the dog develops any problems.
The Bottom Line
Luckily, most dogs eat bugs without any major problems. It’s important though to watch for encounters with toxic bugs and to keep an eye open for signs of allergic reactions (facial swelling, welts over the dog’s body) which can happen with any bug bites and ingestion of toxic bugs.
While infestations with the stomach worm are a possibility, fortunately, they appear to be relatively infrequent in dogs. According to a survey conducted on euthanized dogs in Indiana, Physaloptera rara was found in the digestive tract of 4 out of 104 dogs. Albeit, unlikely, it’s not a bad idea to keep your dog away from bugs. The habit of dogs eating bugs is another good reason why it’s wise to keep dogs on parasite prevention year-round, suggests veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker.
“In most cases, eating a grasshopper or some termites won’t harm your dog and can even add a little protein to his diet. Think of bugs as the canine equivalent of corn chips.” ~Dr. Marty Becker
Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog ate a bug that is toxic or you suspect your dog may have gotten bitten please consult with your vet or the pet poison helpline.
- Physaloptera stomach worms associated with chronic vomition in a dog in western Canada James A. Clark Can Vet J Volume 31, December 1990
- Burrows CF. Infection with the stomach worm Physaloptera as a cause of chronic vomiting in the dog. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 1983; 19: 947-950.
- Merck Veterinary Manual, Physaloptera spp in Small Animals, retrieved from the web on July 16th, 2016
- DVM360, Five strange facts about parasites, retrieved from the web on July 16th, 2016
- All Things Dogs Blog, Ask the Vet, retrieved from the web on July 16th, 2016
- Flickr Creative Commons, Kristal Dale, DSC_0406, The dog, up to no good again. CCBY2.0