Devastated dog owner warns of lethal effects of Pine Processionary caterpillars

By Carrie-Marie Bratley, in Algarve · 27-02-2014 15:15:00 · 12 Comments
Devastated dog owner warns of lethal effects of Pine Processionary caterpillars

A German couple who recently lost their beloved pet dog after it was pricked by a dangerous Pine Processionary Moth caterpillar, is urging others to take care when out and about with their pets, and warns of the dreadful consequences that the poisonous insect’s hairs can have on animals.

Dr. Volker Diersche and his wife Gitta have, for the past twenty years, spent several months every year at their home in Portugal. Earlier this year, on 29 January, they were out walking their two dogs on forest land near Vila do Bispo.
“It was in the afternoon, about 3pm. It was a stormy day. My wife Gitta and I were collecting pine cones in a pine forest along the EN268, three kilometres north of Vila do Bispo. Our female nine-year-old Tibetan Spaniel, Didi, and Cocker Spaniel, Berry, were accompanying us. We had already been there three times in the weeks before and hadn’t seen any caterpillars”, Dr. Volker told The Portugal News.
Adventurous as most dogs are by nature, Didi strolled off happily into the woods.
A short while later Dr. Volker, a geologist, discovered a nest of twisting Pine Processionary Moth caterpillars on the ground.
“Obviously they had fallen from a pine tree. Because I had heard they are dangerous for dogs, we left quickly for our car. There we called and searched for Didi, but only after five or ten minutes did she appear from the woods. She was walking unusually slow, tail down; she was apathetic and white foam was coming out of her mouth.”
After arriving home and trying to wash the dog’s mouth, the alarmed couple called the veterinarian hospital of Espiche and took Didi there straight away.

“The vet immediately washed her mouth with water and connected her to an infusion with an antihistaminic agent (vet cortisone). They told us that such dog accidents with the poisonous caterpillars of the Pine Proc-essionary Moth are common at this time of the year. They wanted to keep her for observation during the night, and we went home full of hope”, Dr. Volker recalls.
Despite making it through the night Didi sadly died the following morning.
“We believe she died from kidney failure but also from a complete system breakdown of her little body. Obviously she had too much of the dangerous poison in her body and her blood, and she was too small to win against it. She must have had a very painful, terrible death - and this all because nobody had really
informed us of the details of the lethal danger from the Pine Moth caterpillar.”
The couple hopes that by sharing their tragic story it may prevent others from having to go through the same, or at least help them recognise the symptoms and know how to respond should they have the misfortune of it happening to them.
“Immediately clean the mouth of the pet with warm water and take it urgently to the nearest veterinary clinic”, Dr. Volker urges, adding: “Although there is no real anti-poison, treatment with cortisone, blood pressure stimulants and pain-fighting medicine provide some relief and mostly rescue.”
“In Portugal caterpillar populations of the Pine Procession Moth in private and municipal pine woods must be removed by law, but pine woods in nature reserves such as along the west coast are mostly not cleared of this danger, and there are no warning boards about it”, he cautions.
A greater problem, Dr. Volker believes, is that few people are aware of just how deadly the Processionary caterpillar can be to animals: “Everyone with dogs whom I spoke to after the death of our dog did not know and were highly surprised and startled. Not to mention how sad we still are about Didi’s fate and losing this joyful, trustful and innocent dog in such a way.”
A veterinary nurse who has worked in the central Algarve for nearly thirteen years told The Portugal News that such incidents are common at this time of year.
“We’ve seen two cases at our clinic in the past week”, she said, adding: “Not mentioned that a lot of the time part of the dog´s tongue becomes neurotic and may fall off.”
The Pine Processionary Moth’s larvae (caterpillars) feed on the needles of pine trees and other conifer tree species, and are found widely throughout continental Europe. Information from the UK Government Forestry website explains: “PPM caterpillars represent a public health hazard because they have thousands of hairs which contain an urticating, or irritating, protein called thaumetopoein. These hairs can be blown by the wind into contact with people and animals, resulting in painful skin irritations and rashes and, in some cases, allergic reactions in some people and animals.”


Hi Cgris
Please what shots pills did doctor to your dog ? Oour Westie just got bitten in Cyprud and the vet put her on drip with antibiotics..

by Camelia from Other on 05-03-2018 11:55:00

Thank you so much for your extremely important information which could save the live of my dog and others I am very grateful

by Dee from Other on 13-04-2017 04:56:00

After reading the above reports I think people should know how severe this problem can be to adults, I have been affected three times by this catapiller while on holiday in the algarve after just sitting in the garden resting, the hairs of this catapiller are airborne and you have no idea that you are breathing these hairs in your mouth up your nose in you eyes and ears they lay on your arms and you have no idea of the danger until your face swells your eyes close and give off green sticky liquid you have problems breathing and get a chest infection. Your hands and arms blister and swell and the affected area looks like you have very deep burns that keep burning down the layers of your skin for several weeks that bleed and weep, it has taken two months for me to recover from this severe problem after taking steroid injections and antibiotics. I have a photo of my hands that make people gasp with shock of the horror of this problem. If you would like to see this photo please contact me.

by Ann Warren from UK on 17-06-2016 09:27:00

Do PC walk at night on the ground or just during daylight hours, we are on holiday in Javea, Spain and our villa is surrounded by them, afraid to let the dog out in the garden. When is it safe, meaning what time of year do they go to ground.

by ann from Other on 09-02-2016 06:41:00

I would recommend that word about this caterpillar be circulated widely amongst the population. People don't pay serious enough attention to the little they may know about it. This caterpillar can very easily be LETHAL to pets. Our tiny Yorkie came into contact and reacted immiadately by vomiting and drooling, followed by complete lethargy. She was treated immediately by the vet who diagnosed the caterpillar. Her tongue was extremely swollen and black. She was drip fed overnight and came home for a while the next day. She was still very ill. We were given special rescue food, which she ate and we gave her water by syringe. She is now 4 days down the line and eating well and her old lively self. She will lose small parts of her tongue as a result of the necrosis, which contact with this insect usually causes. Our little dog was extremely lucky. Many dogs with a less serious incident have died. The insect is LETHAL. My advise would be to never walk unleashed dogs anywhere near pine trees - in fact I wouldn't go near them leash or not. Small children and adults can also be seriously effected, especially if they are of the 'allergic' type or suffer from asthma.

There are ways of trying to eradicate this tree infestation in gardens, etc. If anyone wants my perspective on these methods, you are welcome to contact me.

Thanks for reading.


by Chris from Algarve on 08-02-2016 06:09:00

Im nursing our dog back to health today. She had a very bad reaction yesterday whilst we were in the hills north of Lagos.
She was vomiting every 2 minutes, cramping up in pain and chewing more and more grass to induce more vomiting. I managed to get a vet to stay on after hours so we could get her treated.
Immediate treatment is needed, 5 shots 15 pills to date and she is doing ok.
They are early this year - and everywhere it seems, though we hadnt seen too many nests this year. The vet said that he'd already lost one dog this year, and more cases weekly.
Difficult to see what your dog is up to all the time, it doesnt take long to get in contact with such small things when your eyes are off them. Be vigilant and if your dog suffers -wash out the mouth immediatly and get it to the vet

by Robb Claydon from Algarve on 07-02-2016 01:12:00

My son found a pine processianary caterpillar. in voctorvill at my second sons house we got it in jar I need to find were I can turn it or sell it people are looking for that king. I a Pine Processiary Catetipllars moth number call if can

by janie mae cooper from USA on 15-06-2015 05:59:00

I live in the French pyrenees. This morning my neighbour discovered that his itchy, swollen leg was caused by a large, hairy caterpillar (6cms long) which was still attached to his trouser leg! Is this a processionary caterpillar? It is all alone and there are relatively few pine trees here - mainly sweet chestnut, ash and false acacia. We both have dogs so are anxious.

by Anne Hazlewood from Other on 10-05-2015 09:17:00

Quote.... “We’ve seen two cases at our clinic in the past week”, she said, adding: “Not mentioned that a lot of the time part of the dog´s tongue becomes neurotic and may fall off.”

Neurotic? I think you mean 'necrotic' ??

by Latent from Other on 11-03-2015 09:01:00

To be fair, this tragic awful accident didn't happen "all because nobody had really informed us of the details of the lethal danger from the Pine Moth caterpillar.”

Owners must take responsibility for finding out threats to their pets in unfamiliar environments. I live in a pine forest in Spain as well as the UK, so before I moved to Spain I researched possible theats to my dog's health including insects, predators and plants. eg pine processionary moth, sand flies, mozzies, snakes, wild boar, eagles etc. And any possible counter measures, anti-histamines, scaribor collars, avoiding certain times of day or seasons etc It's part of ownership to do due dilligence.

Same as when I first got my German Shepherd, I researched which plants in my garden might be dangerous if he ate them as a puppy and removed them. Or which foods/drugs that might harm him eg Macademia nuts, onions, chocolate, ibuprofen etc and purged the house of them. Got hydrogen peroxide in case I needed to induce vomiting, pet first aid kit etc..

As I said, it's tragic and I worry about my dog, but at certain times of the year especially Feb to April when the catepillars are in their 5th stage (instars) of growth, you have to be very careful where you let your dog go off leash in wooded areas in Portugal/Spain. The catepillars go looking for a new place to live, hence the processions as they move along the floor. The article wasn't even technically that informative. ie didn't mention time of year to watch out or that they can eject their hairs when under stress.

Plus the most important thing to remember, if there is no service to remove them and you have to burn/blowtorch them in an emergency, you must use hairspray first to stop the hairs being released when burned. Otherwise the hairs will go airborne and can remain toxic for a year.

Sadly though with all the best intentions and preparation, accidents will happen.

by Stephen Marsh from UK on 04-10-2014 02:51:00

As appenix to the above article in "Portugal News Online":
Just to describe the dog`s or cat`s reaction on the
nettle poison of the pine procession caterpillar:
after licking their paws, and getting the barbed hairs of the caterpillars onto their tongue and into their mouth:
dreadful pain and itch, allergic shock, drop of bloof pressure, extreme swelling of tongue as well as digestion an respiratory system, breathing problems, suffocation, apathetical behaviour, saliva and white foam from the mouth , asthmatic reaction, coma, kidney failure, death. Most small dogs die from contact with the poisonous caterpillar, some even within 1 hour! Due to necrotic (fowling occurs) reaction even the surviving dogs often loose half of their tongue, and may keep a devastated face.

by Dr. Diersche from Other on 05-03-2014 01:31:00

Dog's tongue becomes necrotic not neurotic! Typo or misinformation?

by Valerie Window from Algarve on 02-03-2014 09:40:00
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