As the first warm months of the year arrive, oak processionaries wake up. These are very particular insects that pose hazards for humans and dogs alike. Let’s discover how to identify them and avoid crossing their paths!
What are oak processionaries?
The scientific name of oak processionaries is Thaumetopoea Pityocampa. They’re caterpillars 4 cm long covered by thousands of long, stinging hairs that contain an irritating substance that can create serious issues for humans and is just as dangerous to animals that come into contact with it. The caterpillars release these hook-shaped hairs in the air whenever they feel threatened. The wind blows them everywhere, and they get stuck to their victims, causing problems of various natures and degrees of seriousness.
It should be specified that oak processionaries are only dangerous while in their larval stage: once they turn into moths, they’re completely innocuous.
But do you know why these insects are called processionaries? They travel in nose-to-tail “processions”, hence their name!
Dogs and processionaries: symptoms
Processionaries mostly lay their eggs on pine trees and oaks, and the highest risk of contact with them is during the spring, especially between March and May.
Dogs are curious, sweet and nosy, and tend to come across these caterpillars and inadvertently ingest their itching hairs. Upon contact, reaction is immediate: salivation increases, vomit may occur, fever, diarrhoea, necrosis of the part of the body that came into contact with the bugs, diffuse pain and refusing to eat.
Dogs and processionaries: treatment
If your dog licks or ingests a processionary he came across during a walk in the park, you must act immediately. Of course, it’s important to take Fluffy to the vet as soon as you can, but if it’s not possible for some reason, you can soften the blow by rapidly removing residual hairs, washing your dog’s mouth with plenty of a water and bicarbonate solution. It’s advisable to use a syringe (without the needle) to spray the washing solution many times in his mouth.
Nature is always full of surprises! There is no definitive solution to avoid processionaries. The only thing we can suggest you do is try to stay away from pine trees and oaks as you go on your walks and to keep an eye on your dog’s movements.