Dogs Who Eat Bugs and the People Who Love Them


“My dog likes to eat bugs, Carol.”

The note started simply enough, but a fellow Cocker mom recently wrote me to tell me her dog likes to eat bugs. Despite trying to get her dog to stop munching on flying insects, a bit of a back story ensued.

“Our dog was found as a stray. The vet feels he developed a taste for bugs on the street.”

So this conversation got me thinking: Are there some bugs that are worse on a dog’s gentle digestive system than others? Can bugs, when ingested, be toxic? I went to two of my favorite online resources for information, both veterinarians by trade: Dr. Laurie Coger, of the Healthy Dog Workshop,  and Dr. Lorie Huston, of Pet Health Care Gazette.

Here’s the scoop on the dreaded bug affair some dogs seem to have with insects and what dog parents need to know:

Wasps, Hornets, and Bees: Oh My!

These flying insects not only hurt when they sting a dog, but facial swelling can ensue as well as severe hives and allergic reaction.  Dr. Coger says that dogs do not tend to experience throat swelling like humans, so airway obstruction is not a major worry.  Since a dog’s “stress organ” is his or her gastrointestinal (GI) system, vomiting and diarrhea might occur.

“Owners of dogs who are “bug chasers” should always have Benedryl (diphenhydramine) on hand, and dose per their vet’s instructions following stings,” Dr. Coger shares. “It will slow the reaction to the stings down, decreasing swelling and hive formation. It’s a good thing to carry in your dog walking coat pocket.”

We carry a dog first aid kit with us and always have a pair of tweezers in the event a stinger must be removed in a hurry. If you see your dog limping, always check paw pads and in between toes. Since dogs walk around barefoot, the propensity for bees or any other type of insect to cause harm is high.

Years ago, a story surfaced about a Labrador Retriever who ate an entire nest of dead bees, which had been treated with pesticide. After a costly emergency surgery and hospital stay, the dog recovered, but pet parents need to be on guard at all times.



Named so due to an odor they emit when disturbed or crushed, the stinkbug has been known to cause intestinal upset and producing symptoms like vomiting, nausea, excessive salivation, and loss of appetite. Dr. Huston says the are not terribly dangerous and the symptoms often resolve without treatment.


Dogs are forever using their noses as their compass through life. Caterpillars are tempting mobile snack for many dogs. Teaching your dog a command such as “leave it” is helpful in these situations. Dr. Huston says some types of caterpillars (though certainly not all) can be toxic or their bristles can cause problems (i.e. irritation) in the mouth or GI tract if eaten. The exact type of toxin varies depending on the type of caterpillar. If you fear your dog has eaten a caterpillar, seek veterinary care immediately.

old english sheepddog


In the northeastern part of the United States, there are both brown recluse and black widow spiders, both capable of potentially fatal stings. “Even your everyday spider’s bite can cause a reaction,” Dr. Coger reports.

Flies and Mosquitoes

Flying insects like flies and mosquitoes are not toxic and generally do not cause a problem for dogs. These are what Dr. Coger calls the “fly catcher” dogs. As an aside, fly catching is considered by some to be a form of epilepsy, and is a presumed genetic disorder in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

“Hey, is that a mosquito up there?”


Lady beetles aka ladybugs can be toxic if ingested. That is worth repeating: lady beetles aka ladybugs can be toxic if ingested, says Dr. Huston.  They cause what amounts to a chemical burn when swallowed. Here’s information about ladybugs and their toxicity from the NIH. This report talks about mouth lesions, but there have been many other reports with lesions in the stomach and intestines. Again, this is when a command such as “leave it” comes in handy.


One of the things I will see my dog doing is nosing at a crawling ant while we lounge on the back deck or if stopping to chat with a neighbor on our daily walks.

According to Dr. Coger, ants, especially fire ants, cause stings that produce a lot of swelling. And of course, the dog usually encounters a nest of ants, so gets stung by hundreds. Seek veterinary care immediately.

lab puppy


The dreaded nemesis of every dog everywhere: Fleas. Dr. Huston explains that besides the potential for toxicity, there is risk for disease transmission with fleas. “For instance, fleas can carry tapeworms and can pass them on to pets when ingested while grooming. Cockroaches and flies are both known to carry roundworms, which can be passed to a pet when the insect is eaten.”

Safe prevention, of course, is the key to keeping fleas and ticks away from your dog. When in doubt, if you suspect your dog has ingested or been harmed by an insect of any variety, seek veterinary care immediately.

Special thanks to our guests and please visit the websites of Dr. Laurie Coger, of the Healthy Dog Workshop,  and Dr. Lorie Huston.

Has your dog ever ingested and/or been stung by an insect? What did you do?

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  1. We were caring for one of my sisters Cockers when she got stung by a bumblebee in the mouth…Cheramie had severe swelling and had to be rushed to the Vets for treatment.This was in 1976,My Beauregard constantly tries to get both bumblebees and honeybees but does listen to the “leave it”command,thank goodness.I don’t ever want to have to go through that again….SCARY!

    1. That is scary, Jackie. My dog tends to want to poke his nose at ants. Glad everything is okay!

  2. One pup likes to play with but not eat. He’ll nose a cicada or cricket and paw at it, bow to it, dance around it. As he’s playing, his brother will come along and pop it in his mouth, leaving the first boy with a look of, “Hey! He took my bug!” The playing, curious one got stung by a yellow jacket once. I rushed him upstairs and dosed him with benadryl. He swelled a bit but recovered fine.

    The first time the bug eating boy got hold of a cicada was hilarious. He saw a leg move as we approached, and he instantly scooped it up. And the cicada started vibrating in his mouth. His eyes got big and his jaw almost fell open wide enough for the cicada to fall out, but not quite. The look of sheer joy passed over his face. “Whoa! This is the most fantastic thing ever!” He carried that bug in his mouth, feeling the buzz, for almost a block. Then he gave it a crunch, and it stopped moving. So he stopped, dropped it, and promptly shredded and ate it. Later he threw it up on my carpet. Rock on, little boy!

    1. I did have to laugh out loud at this one, Katherine. You are so descriptive, and I actually pictured your dog’s face of sheer joy LOL. Fortunately, cicadas don’t bite or sting so they’re not harmful to pets.

  3. Yikes! WE had no idea about a lot of these. Even my cat likes to catch bees – I caught one out of her paw the other day and let it fly away. There’s so much to be careful of. I’ll watch out for the lady bugs. Thanks!

  4. Mine tend to kill the crickets but don’t eat them they just bat them around until they are disabled but have never eaten one. We find bee’s on the ground all the time that are dying, near death or dead (don’t know why this is happeningit just is) while Bill tries to save them if he finds them in the pool (byblowing their wings dry…don’t ask) the kids are very curious about them but as mentioned if I see them near them I use the “leave it” until I can get something to pick them up out of harms way. Water bugs (aka big ass roaches to me are found during extreme heat and trying to get to water I guess with it so dry here and in the desert areas they just come out) are a delicacy Madison and Lexie just can’t help themselves they want to chow down on the ugly little bastards sure hope they don’t cause issues as they are hard to catch and kill and even see since they don’t come out except in the dark of night when they are checking the perimeter of the house for our safety. I hate bugs I know they hae a purpose and always am concerned when the kids find them thinking they are food for them UGH…good info thanks for sharing!

    1. Your kids are little bug chasers, LOL. Well I am happy this article helped. It helped me learn a lot, too. Dex isn’t much into bugs – he likes to swat at ants I will admit. 😉

  5. I laughed when I saw your topic. I started writing a post yesterday about this very subject when Pierre ate his first locust/cicada. It is the only insect that Tucker, my Golden Retriever ever ate. He LOVED them and as soon as he heard one, would go on an extensive search for it. Bentley will eat them, but he is a bee catcher. I have to watch him very closely when they are buzzing around. He gets stung and his face swells up. Does he learn from his mistakes? NO! Luckily, I always keep Benadryl on hand for the times he is faster at his snapping than I am at stopping it. Still, there is just something about the locust all three dogs love.

    1. I look forward to reading your post as well, M.K. I am glad your doggie was okay from that stinging. But Benadryl is so smart to have on hand.

  6. I love finding caterpillars, and watching them. Right now Bailie is in her phase of moth hunting which is hilarious to watch! As a puppy, Katie loved to watch ants.

  7. Rita loves to chase flies, moths, spiders. She will sometimes snap them in her mouth but then spit them out. I worry she’ll try it with a bee one of these days! Weird about the “form of epilepsy” thing for fly chasing….

    1. One of my pups kept having fly-biting episodes that increased in length and frequency; he had some other strange spastic behaviors, too. He was diagnosed with epilepsy and the seizures of all forms have been controled with meds. I’m glad to have my happy boy back. The fly-biting is definitely weird.

  8. Brutus the Boxer ate a bee and his face swe;;ed up and he was panting. Luckily I am a vet tech and my husband was home. After some IV injectons from my boss, he returned to his normal self. No matter how many dogs I see with allergic reactions, it’s totally different when it’s your OWN baby.

  9. My dog Laika hunts bugs but rarely eats them. She’s afraid of house caterpillars (they’re pretty scary actually) which I find somewhat amusing. She always lets me know by whimpering or some other vocal cue that she’s found her prey although she just looks at me and waits for me to decide what to do next.

    This article was great, I laughed when I read the topic. Thanks for the tips.

  10. Thank you so much for this! Our house seems to be infested with ladybugs this time of year. As soon as I read this I immediately got out the vacuum and sucked up everyone of them I found!

  11. Oh no this is actually really good I read this I got almost 3months old puppies for Christmas and they will eat anything…literally anything…they ate my pencil pouch for school… Was not a fun experience trying to not panic about all the plastic, paper, and even some lipstick they ingested. I swear…I can’t even go to the bathroom without those mischievous boys getting into trouble. However, what I actually came upon this for was bc my calm but also perpetually hungry pup Rhett was whimpering and we couldn’t figure what was causing it. It looked as if he was having trouble using the bathroom but I couldn’t think why he would be until I remembered I weirdly found a ladybug on the floor but before I could pick it up…Rhett of course ate it. I thought I remembered something about ladybugs being harmful but couldn’t remember how or to what extent so I was definitely worrying even more so than the pencil pouch catastrophe bc he didn’t show any distress digesting all the junk he ate from that…I swear he is just a vacuum cleaner in disguise. Thankfully, after a while we were able to see him stop whimpering, start playing hard and rough and hyped up as ever with his brother and now he is passed out peacefully on a blanket, haha. Definitely have to watch him with bugs though which makes it very good that he and his brother are starting to recognize the leave it or go on command

  12. My Cockapoo has always played with, sometimes killed, crawling bugs and tries to catch anything that flies by her face. She hunts everything that moves (including flying leaves.). Unfortunately she caught a bee last evening that possibly stung her a few times. I found the dead bee stuck in her fur. She was in such pain (licking many areas and could not even lie down) and was breathing oddly so I took her to the 24 hour vet nearby. Pricey visit for them to tell me she might have been stung, but fortunately she was not having an allergic reaction. She of course was giving her, there is nothing wrong with me, let’s go home performance for the vet (probably the adrenaline from fear.). They could not find any swollen areas or a stinger so they did not give her anything. Once we left she started the licking again and had trouble getting comfortable all night. But thankfully she seems ok today. I may look into one of those mesh face covers to help prevent her being stung again and keep her from eating bugs or picking up toads (another interesting day) anymore:)!

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