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Cicadas Are Coming in 2024: What Pet Owners Need to Know

Black and red cicada with wings on a green leaf
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This spring, over one trillion cicadas are expected to emerge from underground. This cicada event is extra unique, as experts note that two different broods will be emerging at the same time – one that lives on a 13-year cycle, and one on a 17-year cycle. It’s an event that hasn’t happened since 1803

With so many of these winged insects scurrying around, it’s likely that your pet will encounter them. Here’s what to know about how the upcoming cicada emergence will impact your dog or cat.

What Exactly Are Cicadas?

“Cicadas are a species of insect whose life cycle involves several stages, including time spent growing and maturing underground,” explains Dr. Jacqueline Brister, a veterinarian with Embrace Pet Insurance. 

These insects lay their eggs on a tree or shrub. After hatching, the nymph stage burrows underground, and lives off sap from the roots. “Depending on the type or brood, cicada nymphs can remain underground for many years,” adds Dr. Brister. “They eventually emerge from the soil during late spring and summer months and molt into a winged, adult cicada, leaving behind the wingless exoskeleton.” 

This April, the biggest emergence of cicadas in 221 years will occur, with multiple broods emerging simultaneously across the Midwest and Southeast, resulting in potentially trillions of adult cicadas appearing over the spring and summer.

Cicadas and Pets: What You Need to Know

Curious pets may want to gnaw on these insects. So what happens if your dog or cat chews on or ingests a cicada while out on a walk or while playing in the backyard? 

“Luckily, cicadas are not poisonous to pets,” says Dr. Brister. “However, their hard little bodies and wings can sometimes be irritating to the tummy.”

Dr. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian with Pure Paws Veterinary Clinic, explains that pet parents should watch out for gastrointestinal side effects if they notice pets playing around with or eating the bugs. 

“If pets gorge on the bugs, we can see GI upset, and in rare cases more severe vomiting, diarrhea, or even gastrointestinal obstruction, which could require surgery or hospitalization and more intensive therapy,” she says. 

These issues, says Dr. Liff, are much more common in dogs. But cats that have access to the outdoors could also be affected. 

Precautions to Keep Pets Safe

“It is probably best to avoid letting a pet eat cicadas to prevent any potential stomach upset,” says Dr. Brister. 

Do what you can to prevent pets from having access to cicadas. “In that 6-week period, leash walking would be preferred to free roaming in a yard so you can monitor for ingestion and prevent excessive ingestion,” says Dr. Liff.

If your pet accidentally eats a cicada, there is no need to panic. “Monitor for tummy troubles over the next few hours just in case, but most pets will be fine,” says Dr. Brister. 

If your pet does come into contact with a cicada brood and appears to have an upset stomach, call your veterinarian for further instructions.