Insects. Your dog has probably eaten one or two here and there. But what insects are bad for dogs? With so many species worldwide, it can be difficult to know which ones are harmful to our pets. However, with a little research into the animals in your state, it’s much easier to narrow down which ones are an immediate threat to your pooch.
In most cases, eating a bug occasionally will not harm your dog. It can even add some protein to their diet. However, some bugs are toxic to dogs. They may be poisonous, venomous, or have a foul taste that can upset their stomachs. To learn more about which bugs are toxic to dogs, read on with us today!
Which Insects Are Not Good for Dogs?
The occasional bug shouldn’t harm your dog. However, there are some exceptions. Be sure to read up on the wildlife in your state to be better prepared to protect your pup from harm.
Spiders are found worldwide and are well-established in nearly every land habitat. There are 50,356 described species as of 2022. As such, your dog is highly likely to meet a spider or two in their lifetime. Most spiders are completely harmless to our pets and pose no risk to them when eaten.
However, as with any invertebrate, some may come with more risk than others. While spiders are not poisonous to eat, some will quickly bite in self-defense when your dog disturbs them. Some spiders are known to be more venomous than others – but many cases are over-hyped for shock value. Many spider bite reports are criticized for poor evidence.
However, the toxicity of these spiders is well-documented. Be sure to read up on which species are most common in your state to protect your dog from misadventures best.
These spiders in the USA may pose a risk to your pup:
- The brown recluse (medically significant venom but rarely aggressive)
- Chilean recluse (medically significant venom but rarely bites)
- Black widow spider (medically significant venom but generally docile)
- Six-eyed sand spider (medically significant venom but shy and secretive)
- Yellow sac spiders (may give a painful but mildly venomous bite)
- Brown widow spider (may give a painful bite but is generally docile)
- Red widow spider (may give a painful bite but is generally docile)
Ants are insects that are related to wasps and bees. These well-known insects form large colonies and have been found on almost every landmass on the planet. As such, your dog is highly likely to come across ants in their lifetime – and may decide to snack on a few out of curiosity or end up in your dog’s food bowl if they find it.
Most common ant species are safe for your dog to eat. Argentine ants, carpenter ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, and Pharoah ants are all either non-stinging and non-biting or possess a very weak sting. Of course, there are a few exceptions – some ants may bite or sting your pet when disturbed.
In the USA, these ants may pose a risk to your pooch:
Beetles are a highly diverse order of insects, comprising more than 400,000 species. These insects are found in almost every habitat, so your dog is likely to find a beetle or two in their lifetime. Many beetles are completely harmless to us and our furry friends. However, there are several exceptions – if you catch your pooch showing interest in a beetle, it’s important to check what species it may be before allowing them to proceed.
These are the main beetles in the USA that may pose a risk to your pup:
- Blister beetles (secrete a blistering agent)
- Bombardier beetles (spit noxious chemicals)
- Net-winged beetles (produce toxins in their wings)
- Asian lady beetles (release toxins that can burn the mouth)
True bugs form the order Hemiptera. There are more than 80,000 true bugs in the world, ranging from cicadas to bed bugs. Most true bugs feed on plants and pose no risk to our furry friends. Others may feed on other insects or small invertebrates, with mouthparts so small they pose little risk to our dogs.
Cicadas, for example, do not bite or sting, and are generally safe for your dog to munch on. But, while the vast majority of bugs pose little risk to our pets, there are some exceptions.
These are some of the true bugs in the USA that may harm your dog:
- North American wheel bugs (can deliver a painful bite)
- Kissing bugs (will bite other animals, can transmit Chagas disease)
- Giant water bugs (can deliver a painful bite)
Bees and Wasps
Bees and wasps are winged insects. There are over 16,000 species of bee in the world, a few of which are social, while most are solitary. Much more common than bees, wasps make up a group that comprises hundreds of thousands of species.
Luckily for your dog, bees and wasps are venomous and not poisonous. This means that, while a bee sting can harm your dog, it will not be poisoned if they eat an entire bee. You should not encourage your dog to eat bees in any case, though, as it always comes with a risk of your pooch being stung in the mouth.
These bees are more defensive than most others in the USA:
- Africanized honey bee (A. m. scutellata x Apis mellifera)
- Warrior wasps (Synoeca)
- Tarantula hawk (Pompilidae)
- Bald-face hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)
Most butterflies are harmless to dogs when eaten. This is because adult butterflies lack stingers, spines, or piercing mouthparts. However, there are some exceptions – a small number of adult butterflies are poisonous to dogs when eaten. This is because some species feed on toxic plants as they grow. When the adult butterfly emerges, it still carries the plant’s toxins in its body.
These butterflies may be toxic to your dog if eaten:
- Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
- Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus)
- Pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor)
Cockroaches are a group of insects. You can find about 4,600 species worldwide – not that most would want to! Contrary to popular belief, the majority of cockroaches are inoffensive to us and live in a wide range of habitats around the world. Cockroaches are not poisonous and cannot sting. The bug itself can be digested with no problems.
However, if a cockroach has eaten toxic bait in your home, they can easily pose a risk to your dog. As well as this, some cockroaches may rarely bite – but only if food is scarce or they are in danger.
These are the most common roaches in the USA:
- American cockroach (rarely bites)
- Brown-banded cockroach (non-aggressive and does not bite)
- Field cockroach (non-aggressive and does not bite)
- German cockroach (rarely bites)
- Oriental cockroach (rarely bites)
- Smokybrown cockroach (rarely bites)
Earthworms belong to the phylum Annelida, which includes ragworms and leeches. There are around 7,000 species of earthworms, but only 150 are widely distributed. Most worms you’ll encounter pose no threat to you or your dog. This is because earthworms possess no venom, sting, or poison. They also feed only on organic matter, such as leaves, fruits, vegetables, decaying meat, protozoa, and nematodes.
Flies are insects in the order Diptera. There are an estimated 1,000,000 species in the world, ranging from horse-flies to hoverflies – but only 125,000 species are currently described. And with so many in the world, you may worry that they’re not safe for your dog to eat – but rest assured, flies in general are safe for dogs to snack on. However, with that being said, some “flies” may be toxic to dogs – most of these, though, are not true flies. Many are actually beetles or true bugs.
These “flies” may be harmful to your pet:
- Spotted lanternfly (may cause vomiting)
- Firefly (causes gastric upset in large amounts)
Grasshoppers and Locusts
Grasshoppers and locusts are ground-dwelling insects that feed on plants. In many parts of the world, grasshoppers and locusts are used as food for humans and pets alike. They are sustainable protein sources and are sometimes used as food and protein supplements.
However, wild grasshoppers and locusts are sometimes hosts to parasites like roundworms. And, some species may taste bad to your dogs. The Eastern lubber grasshopper, for example, produces a foul-tasting liquid when threatened. Overall, grasshoppers and locusts are safest for your dog if you buy them as food. A wild grasshopper or locust comes with the risk of giving your dog intestinal parasites.
Slugs are terrestrial mollusks with a confusing taxonomy. Various families exist across the world but are not closely related, despite looking the same in their overall body form. This means that your dog is likely to meet all kinds of slugs on their walks. Of course, slugs are not venomous and are not outright poisonous to dogs.
However, they may feed on poisonous plants or feed on poison-laden bait. They can also carry potentially fatal diseases and parasites such as lungworms. So, while slugs are harmless for your dog to show interest in, they should not be encouraged to eat them.
Is It Safe for Dogs to Eat Bugs?
Generally speaking, most bugs are safe for your dog to eat. Many pet parents will come across their dogs chasing and eating flies, house spiders, and beetles in the home or out on walks. However, there are also several exceptions to the “bugs are safe” rule. Always make yourself aware of the common species in your state so that you’re best equipped to protect your dog!
|Type of Bug||Safe / Unsafe / Depends||Reason|
|Spiders||Depends||Risk of bites from highly venomous species, others safe|
|Ants||Depends||Risk of bites/stings from highly venomous species|
|Beetles||Depends||Some species emit noxious, burning chemicals|
|True bugs||Depends||Some species deliver a painful bite or carry disease|
|Bees and wasps||Unsafe||Risk of stings from defensive species – do not encourage!|
|Butterflies||Depends||Some species are toxic to dogs (e.g. Monarch butterflies)|
|Cockroaches||Safe||Little risk of your dog being bitten or harmed|
|Earthworms||Safe||No risk of being bitten or harmed|
|Flies||Safe||No risk of being bitten or harmed|
|Grasshoppers||Depends||Wild grasshoppers/locusts carry parasites|
|Slugs||Unsafe||May carry poison from bait as well as lungworms|
Is It Normal for Dogs to Eat Insects?
It’s perfectly normal for dogs to eat insects. Many insects offer a protein boost to our furry friends, as well as a texture or flavor that our dogs may enjoy. In fact, you may find insect meal in some dry dog foods to add a little protein. In these dog foods, house crickets, yellow mealworms, and black soldier fly larvae may be used to create the insect meal. So, overall, it’s normal and generally safe for your dog to eat insects, with a few exceptions.
Why Do Dogs Eat Bugs?
There are a few reasons why your dog might eat bugs. First and foremost, dogs are endlessly curious creatures who explore with their noses and mouths. When your dog sees a bug crawling about, moving in novel ways, your dog will show interest out of curiosity. As their curiosity grows, it’s common for them to paw at, nudge, or eat the bug to get a better idea of what it is. When your dog eats a few bugs here and there, they may learn which ones taste and feel the best in their mouths.
What Insects Are Bad For Dogs: FAQs
Still unsure about which bugs are toxic to dogs? Feel free to check out our Frequently Asked Questions for more details. If ever in doubt about your dog’s health, always contact your vet for the advice!
In most cases, eating a bug here and there won’t hurt your pup. Certain bugs like mealworms and dried crickets may add a little protein boost to their diet. However, some bugs can make your dog sick. These include poisonous butterflies like the Monarch, some toxic beetles like the bombardier, or slugs that have ingested poisonous bait.
A dog eating bugs should not be encouraged to do so. This is because, while many bugs are safe to eat, there is also a handful that is not. By encouraging your dog to eat bugs, you risk having them sweep up harmful bugs without concern. Always gently discourage your dog from eating insects they find around the house to be on the safe side.
To protect your dog from insects, good hygiene standards are essential. Ants, for example, will be attracted to your dog’s food if left out too long. Cockroaches may take refuge in and around your dog’s bed if it is not cleaned and changed regularly. And, do not encourage your dog to eat random bugs they find around the home or on walks!
Be sure to research the wildlife in your state to know which bugs are toxic to dogs. Always contact your vet if your dog appears unwell after eating an insect.