Pine Processionary caterpillar can cause both human and dog serious medical problems. Many people have suffered seriously from the effects of coming in contact with the Caterpillar, or at least the hair of the animals. Even if you don’t own a dog, but you live in or you like traveling around Europe, I think it is helpful to know something about the Pine Processionary and what can happen if your hands, face or body get in contact with the hair.
In some countries, you should be very careful if you come in contact with certain types of caterpillar, particularly Pine Processionary Caterpillars (Thaumetopoea pityocampa). These creatures turn into a moth and can be found in the pine wood in the Near East, Central and Southern Europe, and North Africa.
These moths lay their eggs as a single eggs mass which is fixed firmly to a pine needle of a suitable host pine tree. Although tiny, the newly hatched pine processionary caterpillars have extremely tough mandibles which are used to penetrate the strong needles of their host.
Around March, the caterpillars depart their nest and follow one another to form a trail head to toe, which sometimes amounts to several hundred in a long procession. Once they find soft soil they bury themselves in it, transform into pupae, and then later on in the warmer months they develop into moths.
As moths the cause no danger, but as caterpillars they can cause some health problems, for both dogs and humans. For dogs, the effects can be catastrophic. Dogs are curious by nature, and if they sniff the hairs, the consequence could be anaphylactic shock or a severe allergic reaction, which can be fatal. Excessive drooling, having white spots on the mouth or tongue and difficulty in breathing are some of the signs that the dog has been affected. You need emergency veterinary treatment for your pet if this happens. I have heard about some cases in which part of the dog's tongue had to be amputated so bad was its condition.
You can identify the pine processionary caterpillar easily thanks to its distinctive characteristics and behavior. This species make a large nest in the top of the pine trees, and between the beginning of spring and late winter they descend from the tree, to form a procession. This is when the caterpillar is more dangerous for dogs. When they get to the ground, direct contact is more likely than ever. The dogs, in their persistent curiosity, will draw near the file of pine processionary in an attempt to figure out what it is.
Pine processionary caterpillar can cause various negative effects in the dog, including discomfort and allergies. These can be recognized by the following symptoms:
• Swollen and red or bruised tongue
If a direct contact happens, you might experience a serious condition. You must go to an emergency veterinarian as quickly as possible. The hairs of pine processionary are so powerful that it can cause necrosis and as well as death to your dog. However, it is essential to know some first aid treatments in order to minimize the effects of the toxins.
1. Remove the caterpillar from your dog's mouth: If your dog eat a pine processionary Caterpillar, you need to take it out of his mouth without delay, although he will likely do it by itself due to discomfort and itching. However, if you have clearly observed that your puppy has swallowed a pine processionary caterpillar you should make it throw up as soon as possible.
2. Wash the affected area: The next step is to wash the affected area with warm physiological saline solution, since heat decreases the effect of processionary caterpillar's toxins. Though, time is important, so if you do not have the answer at hand, you can use clean water from any source to clean your dog tongue. Don’t use force under any situation, as it would leads to the caterpillar hair opening and increasing toxicity.
3. Go to your veterinarian: The treatment after contact between Pine Processionary and the dog may differ depending on the severity of the injury. Treatment usually involves the use of fast-acting corticosteroids, but more severe cases should also be treated with antibiotics or antihistamines. Keep in mind that there are human medications that are not suitable for dogs. Therefore, you must go to a professional to give you the appropriate suggestions; never treat your dog.
The effectiveness and speed of your arrival at the specialist will determine the health of your dog and, most importantly, the decisive factor to prevent the dog from dying due to suffocation. The effects of pine processionary in dogs are not something that can be solved at home or through the use of natural remedies.