Ladybugs are small, brightly-colored beneficial insects that can help any garden thrive to the fullest extent. Ladybugs are an exceptional friend to your garden because they eat aphids, a tiny pest that gardeners and farmers spend hundreds to thousands of dollars a year trying to keep away.
Ladybugs aren’t good for pets to eat. They’re mildly poisonous when ingested by pets, but it would require the pet to eat a massive quantity of ladybugs to see any ill effects. Most pets will eat one and then never go near another one because they smell and taste pretty terrible to pets.
Different Types of Ladybugs, Different Symptoms
There are approximately 5,000 different types of ladybugs worldwide. While the most commonly known is the nine-spotted ladybug which has four spots on the elytra, the hardened forewing covering the ladybug’s flight wings. This forewing is the part we see that has the spotted pattern associated with ladybugs.
While the common ladybugs in your garden should be safe so long as your cat only ate one or two, there isn’t much documentation on pet ingestion of some species of ladybugs. Additionally, ladybugs are often Asian lady beetles, a different, more aggressive type of beetle. The Asian lady beetle is a known pest; if you find one in your home, you should check for an infestation.
They’re also relatively aggressive and known to bite. While the bites don’t generally do much more than hurt, they pose a risk to your cat that can’t take as meticulous care of the wound as you can.
Ladybug Poisoning: Signs and Symptoms
Ladybug poisoning in pets is exceptionally rare. Ladybugs naturally taste terrible. So, pets aren’t generally inclined to eat more than once in a lifetime. However, in rare cases, toxicity from eating ladybugs has been recorded in dogs. While we couldn’t find any documentation for cats, we can look for the most common signs in dogs, as there’s likely to be some crossover if it occurred.
- Unable to defecate (cats probably can’t digest the ladybug’s hard forewing shells so that stool impaction may occur)
- Behavioral changes
Call their veterinarian if you’re worried that your cat may have ingested many ladybugs. There’s not a wealth of case reports on the side effects in cats, and your vet may want to have your cat in for observation to ensure they don’t experience any unintended side effects that might cause long-term consequences.
Does the Ladybug’s Color Tell You Anything?
An article published on Healthline’s website looked at the role of toxicology of different ladybug species and tested the theory as to whether the more colorful ladybugs were more poisonous. The results were similar to what one might expect with an introductory biology course.
Brown ladybugs are usually larch ladybugs. They rely on camouflage to protect themselves from predators and are the least toxic ladybug species. Orange-tinted ladybugs—most often a misidentified Asian lady beetle—tend to have the highest concentration of toxins in the body and thus will be the most allergenic to humans with allergies. Meanwhile, black ladybugs with red spots have one of the more potent toxins, making them cause the worst allergic reactions.
What Should I Do If My Cat Eats a Ladybug?
If your cat eats one or two ladybugs, they’ll likely be fine but may show signs of the unpleasant taste. The toxins won’t be prevalent enough to cause concern at that concentration, and your cat probably won’t be returning for seconds after they taste the first few.\
It can be scary to have your cat eat something unexpected. So, it’s natural to panic and to assume the worst. Luckily, ladybugs are generally harmless to cats. Even if your cat swallows one or two, they’ll probably be fine.
In the rare event that your cat eats a large number of ladybugs, you’ll need to bring your pet to the vet for observation as the symptoms of ladybug poisoning in cats aren’t well-known, and your vet will need to be able to adapt to a situation that’s new for everyone.
Featured Image Credit: nimrodins, Pixabay