Curious cats and some dogs enjoy chasing and even eating bugs around the home. These insectivorous actions have a lot of pet parents wondering if it’s safe for their furry friends to devour these 6- or 8-legged invaders – and for the most part, it is. But read on to catch up on the fine print.

Are insects safe for pets to eat?

Snacking on a crunchy critter every now and again should be perfectly fine. While we may think it’s totally gross, our pets would beg to differ. For them, it’s all about the hunt and the reward of the catch, so let them have their fun.

It’s worth noting that some insects come with protective gear, whether spines, stingers, or an irritating noxious taste. Caterpillars are notorious for having spines and hairs that can cause local irritation, and one of the monarch butterfly's claims to fame is its terrible taste. Your pet will probably learn from experience in these cases.

Some bugs can irritate the mouth and tongue (see below regarding ladybugs), and others, like stink bugs, can affect the gastrointestinal system, causing vomiting and diarrhea if eaten in large enough doses. Pets can also get lungworms from eating earthworms, snails, or slugs. Some digestive systems are more sensitive than others, though, so what adversely affects some may not bother others, and vice versa.

What bugs are not safe to eat?

Some insects, however, can pack a bigger punch. Ladybugs, for instance, are not only irritating to mucous membranes like the mouth and stomach, but they can also be corrosive, burning holes in the cheeks or palate and even causing ulcers in the stomach. This isn’t to say that chomping on a lone ladybug is something to worry about, though. These exaggerated cases tend to happen when ladybugs are eaten in massive amounts.

Other bugs and creepy crawlies harbor intestinal parasites that can live in your pet’s system, as well. Earthworms, snails, cockroaches, and, of course, fleas can all transmit intestinal parasites to your pet if eaten. Again, don’t run off to the vet every time you see your pet munching on a moth. But if you’ve seen your pet eating a bug and then notice she’s under the weather, later on, it’s a good idea to mention it to your vet.

Stinging and biting insects are another story altogether. Check out our blogs on venomous spiders and stinging bugs for the full story.

In the meantime, it’s ok to let your pet have their fun on an insect hunt, as long as it’s not a smorgasbord. But if I were you, I’d avoid the sloppy kisses for a bit…

Sep 2, 2016
Pet Health

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