As billions of periodical cicadas emerge from the ground across Northern Illinois and neighboring states for the first time since 1990, many residents are wondering about the other critters in their lives: their pets.

While most of us will try to keep contact with cicadas at a minimum, our pets might be eager to play with the buzzing bugs, or possibly sample a few as a mid-day snack.

And that's perfectly fine, says Chicago veterinarian and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) member Shelly Rubin, DVM, who has been researching cicadas in anticipation of this year's invasion and subsequent questions from concerned clients.

"Pet owners have nothing to worry about," says Dr. Rubin. "While they might be a nuisance to humans, they're no danger to us or our pets. They don't sting, they don't bite, they don't carry disease, and they can be eaten without any problem at all.

Dr. Rubin says that the cicadas are a good source of protein and are eaten as part of a human diet in some places of the world. While you might want to monitor your pets while they're outside to ensure they don't overindulge in a cicada meal, the sheer number of the bugs in some places will make it an impossibility to prevent Fido from wolfing a few down, if he's determined to. And if you catch your dog or cat in the act of chomping a cicada, Dr. Rubin advises against trying to remove it from your pet's mouth; such a move could lead to your fingers getting chomped as well.

Of course, as with any food, eating too much may lead to vomiting or internal distress. If a pet appears to be in pain or vomits repeatedly the owner should contact his or her veterinarian.

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 75,000 member veterinarians engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. AVMA members are dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine, including its relationship to public health and agriculture. Visit the AVMA Web site at to learn more about veterinary medicine and animal care and to access up-to-date information on the association's issues, policies and activities.

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