You've probably already designated your ever-curious puppy as the household bug catcher, although you may want to reconsider. Sure, chasing around a crawling critter is extraordinarily entertaining for your pint-size pooch, but some types of insects are very dangerous for canines. Just to be on the safe side, you're better off letting that bug go free in your yard, rather than allowing your pup to get his chompers on it.
Is It Safe for Puppies to Eat Insects?
Bugs to Be Concerned About
The majority of flying or crawling insect lurking around your home is probably harmless. However, you can't always get a glimpse of the bug before Fido inhales it and he could be hunting something dangerous. Bees and wasps may sting your unsuspecting pup's lips, tongue or gums, which can lead to swelling and possibly an allergic reaction. If you have spiders who hang out in your cozy abode, they can be poisonous for your furry friend. Brown recluse and black widow spiders excrete a harmful venom when they bite. June bugs aren't poisonous, although they can cause diarrhea and vomiting in your puppy.
In the garden, watch out for: monarch caterpillars (and butterfiles); puss or asp caterpillars (thought to be the most dangerous in the US); the Lonomia caterpillar (the most deadly of all, and common in South America); flannel moth larvae; and "stinging" caterpillars such as the slug (a.k.a saddleback); hag moth, monkey slug, and gypsy moth.
Possible Poison Problems
Even if a creepy critter isn't poisonous, it could be laced with toxic substances. Take roach bait stations, for example. The purpose of these boxes isn't to catch and trap bugs; rather, the roach is supposed to nibble off a bit of the poison and take it back to his family. Eventually his whole crawling brood dies. But if your beloved Fido gets to the roach first, he could ingest the poison. You may not think about it if you don't have any sort of insect poisons or bait stations on your property, but your neighbor might use them. Those insects could be carrying poisons from someone else's yard.
The Choking Consideration
Some bugs have exoskeletons. This means that their tough frame is on the outside, not on the inside -- think of beetles and cockroaches. Even though your puppy may crunch away and swallow that critter with no problems, sometimes those hard fragments can wreak havoc on his body. For starters, those exoskeleton fragments can get lodged in his throat, causing him to choke. Then even if he manages to swallow the pieces, his digestive tract probably won't be happy. Not only can the exoskeleton fragments irritate his gastrointestinal tract, larger pieces could get lodged in his intestines, causing a blockage. Little Fido's insect hunt goes from fun and tasty, to a trip to the emergency room as his body works to process the insect.
Be on Alert
If your curious fur ball happens to eat an insect, monitor him closely for signs of problems. Coughing, sneezing and shallow breathing are signals that the critter could be lodged in his throat. These could also be warnings that his throat is swelling from an allergic reaction after a bite or sting. Even if you don't notice anything out of the ordinary right away, keep an eye out for any face swelling from a bite or flu-like symptoms -- fatigue, loose stools and vomiting. These little cues let you know that something isn't right in Fido's body and he needs to get to the vet right away.
By Melodie Anne Coffman
The Humane Society of the United States: Common Household Dangers for Pets
ASPCA: Japanese Beetles
West Side Animal Clinic: Pet Safety
WebMD: Choking and Reverse Sneezing in Dogs
WebMD: Insect Stings and Snake Bites in Dogs
VetStreet: 10 Snakes, Spiders and Other Creatures That Are Dangerous to Your Dog and Cat
WebMD: Top 10 Dog Poisons
All Things Dog Blog: Ask the Vet: Dogs Who Love Bugs
About the Author
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.