What is the pine processionary caterpillar? The pine processionary caterpillar is a species of lepidoptera, that is to say a butterfly, which belongs to the family of notodontidae. The pine processionary caterpillar is not colored, but it is a moth.
Pine processionaries are somewhat larger than their oak processionary relatives. They are a pest of pine forests and are considered the most important defoliating insect of Spanish pine forests. This is why you should be especially careful when walking in the forest with your furry companion, as the effects of the processionary caterpillar can be fatal.
Why is this caterpillar so dangerous?
It is not the moth that is dangerous for humans and animals, but the caterpillar itself. The caterpillar is covered with up to 600,000 whitish stinging hairswhich cause unpleasant allergic reactions.
These hairs have barbs containing the toxin Thaumatopin, which is responsible for the irritating effect on contact. If it feels attacked, the processionary caterpillar can pull these stinging hairs and the wind can throw them up to 200 meters away. After their expulsion, the toxin retains its effect for a year.
Contact should therefore be avoided, even when the caterpillars have already left the nests in the pines. Processionary nests are whitish or brownish pockets in the crown of pine trees. In general, the branches of trees where the pine processionary is found are defoliated.
The caterpillars can reach five centimeters and their characteristic way of moving makes them easily recognizable: they move in procession, that is, the caterpillars go one behind the other. From a distance, they can be mistaken for a snake. They leave the pupa between March and June, sometimes earlier, depending on the temperature, to search for food. Then, they bury themselves in the ground to pass the stage of the nymph.
How do I know if my dog has been bitten by processionary caterpillars?
In humans, contact with stinging hairs often causes symptoms similar to those of insect bites. The intensity of the reaction depends on the amount of caterpillar hairs rubbing against the skin.
Very strong allergic reactions are possible and can even cause anaphylactic shock. Effects in dogs are similar to those in humans. If your dog comes into contact with the hairs of a processionary caterpillar, you must immediately consult a veterinarian, because there is danger of death! Your furry friend may have an allergic shock. Affected areas may also become necrotic. Symptoms and their intensity vary from dog to dog:
Symptoms of Processionary Caterpillar Bites
- Caterpillar contact reactions usually appear in unprotected areas, that is, areas that are not covered with fur. The head is usually the most affected area. Inflammation may develop on the muzzle, which may spread throughout the area.
- If your dog has swallowed any of these stinging hairs, digestive issues such as vomiting may occur.
- Inhaling the hairs can cause allergic reactions in the respiratory tract.
- Contact with eyes may cause conjunctivitis.
- Other symptoms of contact with the processionary caterpillar may include fever, fatigue, or mucosal damage.
What should I do if my dog is bitten by a caterpillar?
A dog can come into contact with the dangerous stinging hairs by sniffing the ground and falling on a caterpillar or nest abandoned. It is vital to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible to avoid asphyxiation due to swelling of the airways.
In the event of a processionary caterpillar bite:
- Stay calm. Your nervousness can cause you to make a mistake when providing first aid to your furry friend. Try to stay calm.
- Remove the stinging hairs from the caterpillar. Protect yourself with gloves and a mask. Then, wash the affected areas with warm water. If there are hairs on the coat, it is advisable to put the dog in the shower or in the bathtub and douse him completely with warm water.
- Avoid letting your furry friend lick their paws or fur as they may ingest some of the caterpillar’s stinging hairs. You should also avoid scratching, as this can increase itching and cause sores.
- Consult a veterinarian to avoid life-threatening reactions. It may need to be treated with medication.
Prevention of contact with the pine processionary in dogs
To avoid contact with a pine processionary, it is advisable to follow a few preventive measures:
- Stay away from risk areas. In general, if the infested areas are large, they are usually demarcated by panels.
- If you cannot avoid these areas, you must leash your dog.
- To avoid contact with caterpillars or nests on the ground, make sure your dog does not sniff.
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