Lightning bugs, also known as fireflies, are enchanting creatures. They buzz around with their pretty, glowing bodies and are quite fascinating to watch, captivating even the busiest of canine minds. They are commonly seen at night time in abundance during summer months. You may find your dog chasing them, catching them, and even eating them. This may lead you to wonder if lightning bugs are safe for a dog to eat.
The answer to this is a bit of a gray area, as lighting bugs are toxic to bearded dragons, other reptiles, and amphibians but are generally not toxic to dogs, especially if they only eat an odd one here or there. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t cause some harm, particularly if your furry friend has eaten a decent amount of them. For this reason, you should try to discourage your dog from eating lightning bugs when possible.
What Are Lightning Bugs?
Lightning bugs are a type of flashing firefly. Over 2,000 species of fireflies are present all over the world, except Antarctica. Lighting bugs, the flashing kind, are found in large numbers in the USA and Canada, particularly east of the Mississippi River. Interestingly, fireflies are not actually flies or belong to the fly family—they are beetles.
The flashing illumination that lightning bugs produce is not random; it is a form of communication and is performed using a unique pattern of flashes. Each species of firefly has its own pattern of flashing that they can translate and understand. It is how they communicate and call for a mate.
Lucibufagins are chemicals in the lightning bug’s body that give them a bitter taste to help prevent predation. It is this chemical that causes the issues when ingested by reptiles and amphibians.
Are Lightning Bugs Safe for Dogs to Eat?
Lightning bugs, as previously mentioned, contain lucibufagins. These chemicals are cardiotoxins that can damage the heart muscle. They are especially toxic in small animals, like lizards, and signs typically show up within 30 minutes of ingestion.
Larger animals like dogs can withstand the toxic effects of these chemicals better, meaning that eating one or two lightning bugs will likely not have any effect. However, dogs that eat numerous lightning bugs may suffer some digestive issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and try to keep your dog from eating lightning bugs if possible, especially if your dog is small or a toy breed.
Signs to Watch for After Your Dog Eats a Lightning Bug
If you know your dog has eaten one or more lightning bugs, and you notice any of the signs mentioned below, contact your veterinarian immediately for advice and to see if treatment is required.
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
What to Do if Your Dog Eats a Lightning Bug
If you see that your pooch has just gobbled a lighting bug, the following steps should help you.
- Keep calm. Your dog will almost certainly be fine!
- Remove your dog from the source and place them on a leash so you have control and can prevent any more bugs from being ingested.
- Observe your dog for any of the signs listed above, or any other changes in their demeanor or behavior.
- Do not induce vomiting or use any tactics and medications to absorb toxins without being specifically told to by your veterinarian.
- Contact your veterinarian if your dog is exhibiting any signs at all after eating lightning bugs
How to Stop You Dog Eating Lightning Bugs
Dogs will be dogs, and stopping them from chasing these tantalising creatures can be challenging, so here are a few tips to keep them safe:
- Teach your dog a command like “leave” from a young age.
- Give your dog something to keep their focus away from fireflies; toys, games, or a big bone to chew will help take their mind off the flashing bugs.
- Keep them indoors – if your dog just can’t keep away and they seem to want to eat as many lightning bugs as they can, you may just have to keep them inside while the bugs are most active.
While lighting bugs and fireflies are beautiful, they are toxic to reptiles and amphibians. If your dog eats one or two lightning bugs, they will most likely be fine, but eating larger amounts may lead to some digestive upset. It’s best to watch lightning bugs from a distance and prevent your dog from eating them if possible. If your dog is showing any severe or lasting signs after eating lightning bugs, be sure to contact your vet.