Veterinarian warns pet owners to keep an eye on pets as emerging cicadas could harm them

Regional News

Cicadas nymphs shed their nymph shell to become adults as they hang on a garden plant, Monday, May 17, 2021, in Columbia, Md. Trillions of Brood X cicadas are emerging in the U.S. East after spending 17 years underground. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – As the Brood X cicadas are emerging in parts of the two Virginias, one veterinarian is warning pet owners to keep an eye on their furry friend as pets and cicadas don’t always mix well.

“As a general rule, a pet can eat several cicadas without any complications. Most dogs find them fascinating and will happily pick them up in their mouths. Once the pet discovers how delightfully crunchy they are, they will also happily eat them. And then eat more and more of them.”

Mark Freeman, Veterinarian from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech

Veterinarian Mark Freeman says that when a pet consumes multiple cicadas, problems can develop including vomiting and diarrhea, stomach and intestinal pain, and possibly an obstruction if they get too many cicada shells that might not ultimately pass through your pet’s digestive system.

(Image courtesy of Virginia Tech).

Freeman warns pet owners that if you see your pet take a cicada in his or her mouth, don’t try to take it away from them as it could cause them to swallow the cicada whole which presents a choking hazard.

He says to either let them crew it up, and then try to get it out of their mouth, or just allow them to chew it up and swallow it – but be sure to keep an eye on them to be sure they do not eat anymore.

“One strong recommendation for dog owners prior to the hatch of the cicadas is to teach the pet the ‘leave it’ command. That way, when you’re out on a walk with your pet and they come across a number of cicadas, you can more easily keep them from ingesting a large number of them. If you have a young puppy, it would be ideal to keep them on [a] leash and under control when out on walks to avoid the risk of ingesting large numbers of cicadas.”

Mark Freeman, Veterinarian from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech

Freeman recommends that if your pet gorges on cicadas, you should see your veterinarian as soon as possible to establish an appropriate treatment plan based on the severity of clinical signs that may develop.

If little diarrhea or vomiting occurs, it can be managed fairly easily, Freeman says but severe pain in the GI or possible obstruction could mean a potentially much more aggressive intervention.

Experts from Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology point out that these cicadas will be mostly gone by early July and will not return for another 17 years, which means that this is very likely a once-in-a-lifetime event for your pet.

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