Between January and April, the notorious processionary caterpillars appear in woodlands – especially where there are pine trees. That’s why today we’ll talk about why processionary caterpillars are dangerous and, in particular, how they affect dogs.
We’ve probably all seen them at some point, as processionary caterpillars are easily recognisable because of the way they move around: forming a line, in single file, resembling a procession.
As mentioned above, they appear between January and April, but it is during the months of March and April that we must take extreme precautions. Above all if we have a pet dog and we take him for walks in areas where these insects may be present.
These caterpillars are dangerous because they are coated in toxic hairs that produce rashes if they come into contact with any tissue, human or animal. But this reaction is more severe in our pets, as they often touch them with sensitive tissues such as the tongue or muzzle.
The toxicity of the hairs is due to the fact that they have an enzyme called thaumatopin, and the caterpillar can eject them if it feels threatened. These hairs can be carried by the wind and, what’s more, after being shed, the effect of the enzyme can last a year. If this toxin comes into contact with the skin or mucous membranes of our pet, it causes necrosis and destroys the tissues.
If your dog has been in contact with the processionary caterpillar, here are the most common symptoms:
- Swelling of the affected area.
- Itching or rash.
- Bruised tongue.
- Vomiting or other digestive problems, in the event they have swallowed the hairs.
- Conjunctivitis, if the hairs have come into contact with the eyes.
- High temperature.
- Restless behaviour.
If this happens, the first thing to do is go to the vet immediately. Where this isn’t possible, you must remove the caterpillar or any hairs that may have stuck to your dog’s coat with gloves and tweezers, and then bathe the area with water.
To avoid this situation, at Danna we recommend that you don’t walk your furry friend in areas where there are pine trees or other habitats of processionary caterpillars.