The Pine Caterpillar can be a serious threat to dogs and people – Video
The fairly cute and comical looking Pine processionary caterpillars are a very serious threat to both animals and humans. Their odd moving continuous line-up defiantly gets the interest of any passing dog.
The threat comes from the natural curiosity of our pets, they will sniff the furry little creatures or touch them with their paw, but any contact can lead to a desperate trip to the vets.
That contact sparks the caterpillars defence mechanism, it secretes a small amount of poison in the form of an acid. This poison is very painful indeed if it makes contact with an animals skin.
A dog (cats seem to know to avoid the creatures) will instinctively start to lick that affected area to try to alleviate the pain, this is when the poison spreads to the mouth, as the tissues inside the mouth are very delicate the poison can cause extensive tissue damage.
The ‘season’ for the caterpillars varies from year to year depending on the climate, generally they are active between the months of January and April. They weave quite large cocoons in the branches of pine trees, they look similar to large, dirty, cotton balls. When the weather warms in spring the caterpillars emerge and being their procession down the tree and then across the ground in the search for food.
The caterpillars are small and do not look like they would be a threat, when combined their lines measure about half a metre.
A poisoned dog will immediately display symptoms, these may include a very swollen tongue and a severe allergic reaction is almost instant, the dog’s blood pressure falls dramatically, which can prove to be fatal.
It is essential that you seek attention from a vet as quickly as possible as the allergic reaction quickly overpowers the dog. About all you can do to help is wash the dogs mouth out with water. Even this carries a threat as you must avoid contact with the poison so you must wear protective gloves.
There is then a secondary reaction as infection starts to spread, this can even lead to gangrene, and this in turn can lead to sections of flesh ‘falling off’ especially the tongue.
In the active months check any pine trees on or near your property for the tell-tail cocoons, when advised by the public the city will come out and spray very quickly if the pine trees are on public land. On your land you need to contact a pest control company rather than deal with the problem yourself.
Unfortunately you need to keep in mind that the caterpillars can also have the same devastating effects on humans. Most human contact comes from the bugs falling from the trees onto people below, so pine areas should be avoided in the spring.
Although you need to be very careful I would not want to put anyone off having a dog in Spain. I have a dog, there is a large pine tree next to my back garden, and I take my dog for walks in areas that may have the caterpillars, it is just a matter of being aware rather than ignorant about these caterpillars.