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Insect-Based Dog Food: What You Need to Know

Cassandra Kyser

By Cassandra Kyser

wet and dry dog food

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The commercial dog industry has evolved over the last century. The first canned dog food, Ken-L Ration, hit store shelves in the 1920s. It was made of horse meat, a protein that the U.S. considers unfit for human consumption. Horse meat eventually fell out of favor and was replaced by chicken and beef. Later on, dry kibble hit the market. There’s been growing consumer interest in organic pet food and raw diets in recent years.

One of the newer trends on the dog food scene is insect-based dog food. Many of these products contain crickets or grubs as their protein source. This new food source raises a lot of questions. Are crickets and grubs safe? Are these pet foods nutritionally sound? And where can you buy insect-based pet food?

Divider 7Insect-Based Dog Food FAQs

We turned to pet experts to answer your questions about insect protein dog food.

dry dog food kibbles in storage container
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Survive on Insects?

Surprisingly, some insects are valid protein sources for dogs and humans. A 100-gram serving of cricket powder offers between 13 and 20 grams of protein.

Protein plays a significant role in your dog’s balanced diet. But domesticated canines also need other nutrients like fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fat. Insects alone can’t provide those nutrients. That’s why commercial insect-based dog food contains other ingredients.

So to answer the question, keep in mind that “survive” is different from “thrive.” In an emergency situation, dogs can eat crickets to get by. But insects alone aren’t a long-term balanced diet. Dogs need nutrients from other types of foods like grains and vegetables.  Insect based pet foods contain other grain, oil and vegetable sources to create a balanced diet.

Is Insect Protein Safe for Dogs?

Commercial dog food brands sold in the U.S. are safe. Two organizations provide oversight to the pet food industry: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

  • The FDA regulates what ingredients can be used in dog food. This government agency also provides standards for pet food labels.
  • The AAFCO is a private organization that sets nutritional guidelines for different life stages. It does not test, regulate, or endorse any specific brands. Pet food manufacturers rely on third-party testers to ensure their product meets AAFCO’s guidelines.

You should be cautious about homemade insect protein dog food, as it may not meet either agency’s criteria.

Although humans have been eating insects for millennia and many cultures still do, there is not enough evidence to determine the long term benefits and disadvantages of eating insect protein. However, working groups of scientists are looking into this. It is felt that insects offer a safe alternative protein source provided all other nutritional requirements are met too.

liver on pet bowl
Image By: New Africa, Shutterstock

Is It Okay for My Dog To Eat Moths?

Your dog may already eat insects as some pooches eat bugs found in the wild. If your puppy chases a moth and then eats it, there is no cause for alarm. Most insects that your dog will encounter in your home or outside are not harmful to consume in small quantities.

You want to watch out for bugs like bees, hornets, and poisonous spiders. Not only will they bite your dog, but they can be harmful if ingested.

The most commonly grown insects for dog foods are crickets and black soldier fly larvae.

What Happens if My Dog Eats a Black Widow?

Depending on where you live Black Widow spiders may be a danger to you and your pet. These arachnids are highly toxic to dogs. Signs that your dog ingested one of these poisonous spiders include:

  • Drooling
  • Walking as if drunk
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Paralysis
  • Muscle cramps

If your dog eats any black widow spider—alive or dead—seek immediate veterinary care.

Divider 3

Is Insect-Based Food Right for My Dog?

Now that you know the basics of insect-based dog food, you may be curious to have your pet try it. But how do you know if this type of food is right for your pet? There are pros and cons to insect-based dog food. Before you splurge on a bag, here’s some food for thought.

dog food for sale in pet shop

The Pros of Insect-Based Dog Food

Eco-Friendly. It’s a no-brainer that cows and chickens take up exponentially more space than insects. But what exactly does less farming acreage mean for the environment?

One cricket- and grub-based dog food manufacturer, Jiminy’s, claims that switching to their product can save 480,000 gallons of water per year. This figure is based on a 40-pound dog that changes from a chicken-based to insect-based food. Jiminy’s also states that just 1 acre of land can produce 130,000 pounds of insect protein.

Allergy-Friendly. Pets can develop food allergies just like humans. Research has shown that beef, chicken, dairy products, and wheat are the top canine food allergies. If you walk down the pet food aisles, you’ll notice that most commercial dog foods are beef- or chicken-based.

Dogs’ food allergies often manifest as skin conditions such as chronic itchiness, sores, and ear infections. There is no simple diagnostic test to confirm or rule out canine food allergies. Your vet may recommend that you conduct a food trial, where you switch to a different protein source.

Novel proteins are a growing niche in the pet food market. Manufacturers already produce dog food containing venison, lamb, and even alligator meat. Insect protein could be an option for your pet although some pets who are allergic to shellfish will also be allergic to insects.

The Cons of Insect-Based Dog Food

Accessibility. Pet food with insect protein is not widely sold in stores. This can make it difficult for your dog to sample the food without investing in an online purchase and delivery fees.

If you’re not sure if your pup would like the taste of bugs, try a cricket protein dog treat first.

Price. You’ll notice a few differences when comparing insect-based dog food to a more traditional chicken-based dog food. The insect-based brands come in much smaller packaging and cost more per ounce. You may find that you’re paying as much as four times the price for cricket protein.

Related: Will Dog Food Attract Roaches? What You Need To Know!

Divider 7Insect-Based Dog Food: A Fleeting Trend or Viable Protein Source?

What is socially acceptable for dogs to eat has changed over time. Several years ago, commercial dog food contained horse meat, and most of today’s consumers would not consider that an acceptable ingredient. Insects are a new, novel, and viable protein source. Only time will tell if insect protein is a passing trend or a mainstay in the pet food industry.

An insect-based food could be the solution to your dog’s skin problems. You may also be drawn to these products because of their sustainability and smaller carbon footprint. It’s wise to meet with your veterinarian before switching to cricket protein or another insect-based food. The long term pros and cons of these foods are not yet scientifically proven.

Featured Image Credit: Yuriy Golub, Shutterstock

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