A few days ago we received a question through the All About Worms Facebook page from a reader whose dog had recently eaten several grubs, or beetle larvae. (“Grub” is a generic term that could theoretically refer to any of the hundreds of thousands of species of beetle larva, but it is often used by people to refer to the fat, white larvae on their lawns – “lawn grubs” – in particular.) The reader was made aware of her dog’s recent dietary choices after she (the dog) threw up grubs all over her back porch. (What is more disgusting than vomit? Larvae-filled vomit.) Not surprisingly, the reader was wondering if it is harmful or dangerous for dogs to eat grubs, which we now turn our attention to.
Before that, though, there are a couple of matters to attend to. First and most importantly, we are not veterinarians, so nothing we say can be taken as medical advice for our reader’s dog. If her dog is experiencing problems, then it needs to go to the vet, and nothing we say should interfere with this standard decision-making process. We know a little bit about grubs and therefore have things to say in response to our reader’s question, but, again, this isn’t actionable veterinary advice. Second, the reader sent in a nice picture of one of the plump grubs her dog has been dining on, presumably before it has been eaten and then thrown up:
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With our disclaimer out of the way and the picture having been beheld, let’s move on to our main concern: is it dangerous for a dog to eat grubs? As is so often the case, we can’t simply answer “yes” or “no” because there are several different factors to consider. Overall, though, we don’t think it is very dangerous for dogs to eat grubs, which we say for a number of reasons. First, dog owners frequently report that their dogs love grubs, and evidently this doesn’t cause any harm to the dogs (or else the owner wouldn’t cheerfully report their dog’s grub-eating habit, nor would they feed grubs to their dog in a YouTube video). Moreover, grubs are widely consumed within the animal kingdom, with the larvae serving as a crucial source of protein for animals like birds, raccoons, and skunks. In fact, in the many parts of the world in which insects are eaten by humans (like the Philippines), grubs are particularly popular. So, there is ample precedent for the consumption of grubs by dogs and various other animals (including humans).
That said, we don’t want to simply declare grub-eating as unambiguously safe and encourage our reader’s dog to get while the gettin’s good. The most obvious source of our hesitation is the fact that our reader’s dog threw up after eating grubs. A number of factors could have caused this – it could even be too much of a good thing – but the dog’s reaction certainly gives us pause. Even if it is generally safe for dogs to eat grubs, maybe our reader’s dog has a weak stomach. Second, it is always best to exercise caution when it comes to the consumption of unwashed, uncooked larvae. Even if the larva itself is entirely safe to consume, it may carry some sort of harmful bacteria, and obviously you don’t want your dog to consume anything that could get it sick. In general, dogs have fairly robust immune systems and have been known to sample things that make grubs seem like a delicacy, but our reader should still be aware that when a dog eats a grub, it is eating both the larva and everything the larva has on it or in it.
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In general, it probably isn’t particularly dangerous for a dog to eat grubs. Lots of dogs and animals eat grubs, so they clearly don’t cause issues for many of those who choose to indulge. However, our reader’s dog already had a bad reaction to the grubs she ate, and eating any creature straight out of the ground has its risks, so perhaps it is best for our reader to steer her dog clear of the grubs in her lawn. And most importantly, if our reader’s dog is suffering from some sort of grub-eating induced ailment, she needs to go to a veterinarian.