he Pine Processionary, Thaumetopoea pityocampa Schiff, is a nocturnal butterfly that in its larval stage is known as a caterpillar and feeds on plant material, more specifically on the needles of pines and cedars. They cause defoliation that slow down the growth of the tree, weakening it, and becoming an entry vector for other pests such as scolithids, which end the life of the tree.
In good weather, the colonies descend from the trees forming the characteristic rows, which give the species its name, because they move in a “procession” mode, to bury themselves in the clearings or edges of the mountain, where the sun’s rays warm the Earth.
The danger of the processionary caterpillar lies in the more than 500,000 filaments, called “trichomes”, which they possess and which function as poisoned darts when the insect feels threatened, which can cause dermatitis, eye lesions, hives and allergic reactions.
The consequences of contact with the toxin depend fundamentally on the part of the body that is affected, the amount of contact and how quickly the treatment is carried out.
What to do if my dog comes into contact with this caterpillar?
The contact of a dog with the pine processionary is always an emergency. Quick action is the key to reducing the effect of the sting; It is necessary to go to your trusted veterinary center or a 24H veterinary emergency center so that an adequate treatment can be carried out as soon as possible.
In these cases, patients require hospitalization and monitoring, as they may have difficulty drinking or eating.
What to do before going to the vet?
1- Minimize contact with the toxin, to minimize its damage.
2- Remove your dog from the area where he contacted the processionary.
3- With care, remove the remains of caterpillar, hairs or secretions with which it may have come in contact.
4- Warm water washes can help reduce the effect of the toxin, since they denature it and prevent its action.
5-Do not rub the affected area. We should not rub the affected area, because then we would cause the opposite effect, since we would break the hairs of the caterpillar and release a greater amount of toxin.
6- You must carry out these actions if possible with gloves and trying to protect your eyes and contact with your skin.
In the event that the dog presents episodes of hypersalivation, drooling or vomiting, be vigilant so that it does not choke if the animal remains very down.
If your dog has itching all over his body, you will have to immerse him in warm water or give him a shower.
How can we avoid risk?
Avoiding walks in pine forest areas in the spring months and controlling the pet so that it does not approach rows of processionaries are simple preventive measures to apply.
Change the walking area to one where there are no conifers. Choose parks without trees, or areas or surfaces with asphalt.
Take your dog on the mandatory leash especially at this time of year.
If we have a garden with conifers, we can eliminate the caterpillar nests by pruning or spraying.
Autumn is the time when the nests are produced where the caterpillars will overwinter, and there are multiple solutions against them such as pheromones, traps, biocides, etc.