Pine purse caterpillar; It is a poisonous caterpillar species found in pine trees in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Marmara region forests. These caterpillars, which are frequently encountered especially in the spring months, can cause serious consequences for our cat and dog friends, even death, in contact. Its irritating hairs cause nasty allergic reactions when it comes into contact with the skin. Swelling, bruising, necrosis (tissue death) may occur in the tongue and upper respiratory tract (throat, pharynx, larynx, trachea) of animals that come into contact with these caterpillars. If left untreated, cats and dogs can suffocate to death from respiratory failure.
In this article, we will talk about the habitats of the pine purse caterpillar, what it may be in contact with our furry friends, what you can do when you, the animal owner, are faced with such a situation, and how to protect yourself.
What is Pine Pouch Caterpillar?
Pine purse caterpillars, 3-5 cm in length, are animals that live in pine trees, as the name suggests. They can harm people and animals with their allergenic properties. They usually descend from trees to soil in colonies during the spring and summer to build a new nest or to feed. These caterpillars, especially found in forests and out-of-town areas, have a large number of white and yellowish light brown-gray hairs on their feet on the lower abdomen. It is typical for pine purse caterpillars to advance in rows one after the other. These features and furry structure are enough to attract the attention of dogs. If you have a curious dog, you need to be very careful in these forested areas and areas with pine trees. Especially when dogs touch the caterpillars with their paws, they start to lick their paws out of pain, which can cause poisoning. In some cases, direct contact with the irritating allergen hairs with their mouths can lead to poisoning of dogs or cats by the pine caterpillar.
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Symptoms of Contact with Pine Pouch Caterpillar
The following symptoms begin abruptly immediately after contact. It is extremely important to intervene as soon as the symptoms are noticed.
- Restlessness, irritability, and agitation
- Don’t try to get anything out of your mouth with your paws
- rubbing the face
- Increased saliva in the mouth
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty breathing
- Rapid and frequent breathing
- swelling and bruising of the tongue
- Necrosis of the tongue and oral mucosa (tissue death)
- Dark blue-purple coloration of the oral mucosa
- inability to close your mouth
- Swelling and redness of the eyes and eyelids
- Swelling and redness of the nasal mucosa
If the caterpillars are swallowed, in addition to the above symptoms, abdominal pain, vomiting, exercise intolerance, loss of appetite and low general condition can be seen as a result of the reactions occurring in the digestive system.
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What should be done?
When you encounter such a situation, you can first wash your dog’s mouth and face with warm water. If you are going to come into contact with your hands, you may need to take precautions by wearing gloves. After the first intervention, you should immediately call your veterinarian and report the situation and set off. Intervention in a short time will save your dog’s life and can ensure a full recovery.
What are the Treatment Methods?
If your dog is experiencing severe breathing difficulties, it should be urgently intubated by your veterinarian. Antihistaminic drugs, corticosteroids and serum treatments are administered urgently in appropriate doses. Local pain relievers and cold compresses are applied to the tongue and mouth area. Antibiotic treatment is applied to prevent the risk of infection. Vitamin supplements are applied to accelerate the healing of lesions on the tongue. If the tongue and intraoral lesions are too deep depending on the contact time and the intervention time, the healing of the wounds may be delayed or some or all of the tongue may be removed by operation depending on the tongue necrosis. Since there is no oral feeding, feeding with serum can take up to 1 week.
Ways to Avoid Pine Pouch Caterpillar
When you take the dogs for a walk, especially in the spring and summer months, you should take care to walk the dogs in areas where there are no pine trees as much as possible. If you are going to be in such an environment, you should definitely use a mouthpiece. If you see your dog running over the caterpillars, you can prevent him from licking his paws and wash them immediately with plenty of soap and water.
Pine purse caterpillar nests are fairly easy to spot, as they are hemispherical or drop-shaped structures made of a white, tent-like silky weave near the ends of branches. These slots can be as small as a coin or several meters long. Especially when you see similar nests on pine trees, you not only save your own dog’s life, but also the life of other creatures living in nature by informing the municipalities.
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