Dog Sniffing Grass
Does your dog hunt bugs? You’d think he’d go for bigger prey, but plenty of dogs, small and large alike, enjoy snacking on a nice, crunchy june bug or other insect.  

Whether you have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or a Labrador Retriever, the motion of a crawling beetle, wiggly worm or flying insect is sure to catch your dog’s attention and activate his prey drive. Dogs have been known to eat flies, moths, grasshoppers, crickets and stink bugs, to name just a few.

I can’t tell you the number of times I get calls from worried pet owners, concerned because their dogs have munched down bugs. The idea gives most of us a queasy tummy, and we’re likely to avoid that dog’s kisses for a while, but 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.

Not surprisingly, though, there are exceptions. Some bugs are toxic when eaten or can pass on parasites to your pooch. And as with plants, the most colorful insects have the greatest likelihood of toxicity. Here’s what you should know.

Bug Overload

June bugs aren’t toxic, but if your dog eats a lot of them, he could get an upset stomach, accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea.

Stink bugs taste nasty, according to people who have accidentally ingested them. They aren’t necessarily toxic, but their bitter exudate can cause your dog to drool or vomit if he bites into one.

Sometimes a large number of bugs go down the canine hatch. They can form a bezoar — a hard mass — in the stomach that is unable to pass through the digestive tract. It may need to be removed surgically.

Burns and Venom

Asian lady beetles may look harmless, but they can cause severe chemical burns in a dog’s mouth and gastrointestinal tract if eaten. In one case, 16 of the beetles became embedded in a dog’s palate and had to be removed by hand. Another dog died after ingesting several dozen of them.

Caterpillars seem innocuous as well, but they can be big trouble on a number of fronts. Monarch butterfly caterpillars feed on milkweed, which contains cardiac glycoside poisons that can affect dogs who ingest the pretty striped butterfly larvae.

Some caterpillars are known to sting or inject venom. They include the saddleback caterpillar, notable for its pair of horns with spines; the monkey slug caterpillar, which has stinging hairs and frequents orchards; and the cottony-looking puss moth caterpillar, which looks soft but has venomous spines that are extremely painful on contact.

Dogs who ingest venomous spiders, such as black widows or brown recluses, can become seriously ill or die if the eight-legged predators bite them back. Bees or wasps may sting the mouth, causing pain and swelling.
Large flying insects, such as tarantula hawks, are often attractive to dogs with an interest in birds, but don’t let your playful Spaniel or other bird dog go after one. These spiderlike wasps hunt tarantulas — hence their name — and their sting is among the most painful of any insect.

Parasite Load

Some bugs carry parasites: Your dog can pick up stomach worms from eating beetles, cockroaches and crickets, and ingesting fleas can lead to tapeworm infections.

A tendency to eat bugs is one good reason to keep your dog on parasite prevention year-round. If you’re bugged by your dog’s snack habits, keep insects at bay by mowing and raking your lawn regularly to reduce leaf litter and other debris.

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