It was last March. In this family living in Vicq-sur-Breuilh, south of Haute-Vienne, the youngest Candice sees some caterpillars near Orpheus’ kennel in the afternoon, a beautiful Weimaraner is considered a “full member of the family”. . But, without adding the adjective “cynical” to the famous caterpillar, at least for now. “I thought of simple caterpillars,” the 17-year-old girl recalls.
Except that Orpheus, who is generally very playful and curious, isn’t at his best. The animal begins to drool and vomit. Worry wins over the little family. Candice reads about caterpillars online.
The photos found in the search engine resemble animals that were seen a little earlier near Orpheus’ kennel. These are indeed pine purse caterpillars. The information received by phone from the veterinarian, who has followed the dog for several years, worries the situation: He ordered the vet to “bring it in right away”. Luckily when we got to the clinic they said it might be too late in half an hour…”.
In total, he will be staying at the Orpheus veterinary clinic for over a week to operate on his tongue for necrosis, not counting subsequent follow-ups.
Young dogs that are a little too curious
In recent weeks, several “wake-up calls” from dog owners, as well as from veterinary clinics in the department, have been posted on social networks and certain official sites (National Food Safety, Environment and Labor Agency, National Forestry Office, etc.).
Pine and oak purse caterpillars (see differentiation) In fact, it was added to the list of “species harmful to health” with the decree dated April 25. Because ingrown hairs “can cause urticaria or allergic reactions in humans through direct skin contact or inhalation,” as the decree recalls. But also in pets that, unlike oaks, may come into direct contact with pine purse caterpillars descending from the tree.
“Dogs have a bit of a curious nature, and when caterpillars move in a line, young dogs find it funny, they go and see what happens,” explains Sandy Salmon, a veterinarian in Haute-Vienne at a clinic recently published. a message of caution on Facebook after seven cases of necrosis in less than a week. “The cat looks rarer, more than it touches, whereas the dog will sniff and that is how he is deceived. It is mainly our dogs and mostly young people that push them to explore because of this behavior. »
“These little things that get the dog’s attention, that move, that’s going to go and see what happens,” said Jean-Philippe Papy, a veterinarian in Haute-Vienne. And if the dog, like us, is inclined to look with his fingers, he will do the same, eventually scratching or licking with his paw or nose. But it can also fall on your back. Once contact is made it is there that the risks are high.
Prevention as the best medicine
“These are hazards associated with the presence of stinging substances in the fur that will cause very, very significant irritation both in contact with the skin and when the dog licks the caterpillar, or sometimes simply licks its body. in contact with a caterpillar and has hairs on it. Jean-Philippe Papy explains that this will attack the mucous membranes and on the other hand do much more damage there. Because there may be such a significant inflammation in the mucous membranes and especially in the tongue that necrosis of the tongue and destruction of the tongue can occur. “If there is an allergy, there may be edema, swelling, difficulty breathing, etc.,” adds veterinarian Gilles Sonthonnax.
“We must remember that this is not just for animals, but for humans,” continues Jean-Philippe Papy. In the case of touching the caterpillars first: we prevent the dog from touching the caterpillars, we turn our backs and forget that the 3-year-old also saw and touched them. Also when the dog comes in contact with it, you will have the same problems if you touch it, so you have to be really careful. Do not touch the dog without thick gloves. »
So what attitudes should be adopted in the event of an encounter between a pet and caterpillars? “The first thing to do is to rinse,” Gilles Sonthonnax replies, “to really rinse the dog, to rinse his mouth out to remove everything that can be removed. And then you should plan a consultation, taking into account that there may still be swelling, the risk of allergies.”
“The sooner we intervene, the better the prognosis. There is a question of urgency in this respect. The important thing is to act quickly,” said Sandy Salmon. “The best advice is to avoid risky areas. Prevention is the best treatment. »
A full page is devoted to purse caterpillars on the ANSES (National Food Safety, Environment and du travail) website, under the supervision of an administrative public institution and the Ministries of Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor and Consumption. fr.
What are the health risks? “Very irritating, its fur can sometimes cause serious symptoms in humans and some animals: redness, itching, difficulty breathing, tearing…” explains the National Food Safety, Environment and Employment Agency.
How do you protect yourself from caterpillars? Here are some tips from ANSES to limit the risks of poisoning due to pouch caterpillars:
– do not approach or touch the caterpillars or their nests, especially for children;
– stay away from trees with nests;
– wear long clothes when walking in the forest or near infested trees;
– avoid rubbing your eyes during or after walking;
– thoroughly wash the fruits and vegetables in your garden in case of a recent infestation;
– avoid drying clothes near infested trees;
– shower and change clothes in case of suspected exposure to caterpillars;
– in case of life-threatening symptoms (difficulty breathing, etc.), call 15 or go to the emergency room;
– in case of symptoms of poisoning, consult a doctor or call the poison control center;
– photograph the caterpillar to facilitate identification if it is in contact with the caterpillar;
– if pets are affected, consult a veterinarian or call a veterinary poison center (Western Animal and Environmental Poison Center and National Veterinary Toxicological Information Center).
Attention. “You don’t need to be in direct contact with the caterpillar to show symptoms. Their feathers separate easily and are carried by the wind”, ANSES wants to point out.
How to distinguish between pine and oak purses?
If it is common to speak of purse caterpillars, it is necessary to distinguish in detail between pine and oak purse caterpillars.
“This is the caterpillar of a moth with a wingspan of 3 to 4 cm,” explains Limousine entomologist Laurent Chabrol, head of the biodiversity center at CPIE (Permanent Center for Environmental Initiatives) in Corrèze. It does the cycle only in various types of pines, but in our case mainly Scots pine. Its presence is easily noticed because it makes silky nests and whitish nests at the ends of the shoots. In winter, the caterpillars have a bad season in this insulating and durable nest. And then, in the spring, they taunt down from the nest by the trunk, when they get to the ground, they go and find a fairly loose and well-exposed area. They bury themselves and become pupae. From June-July, butterflies will emerge and the cycle will begin again. It is a species found in very hot regions that are greatly affected by climate change. It was very present near the Mediterranean and has been rising for over a decade, reaching as far as the Paris region and even beyond. However, we do not have it on the Millevaches plateau. It has not been higher than 700 meters yet, but it will not be long… »
“He doesn’t come down from the tree. It flattens its nest against the bark. A nest is more difficult to see because the silk used has a hull-like color. He makes his bike in the tree, doesn’t get down and therefore there is less of a problem because the contact is limited because even if he can find himself on the ground in case of wind. And there is a small time delay: that of the pine, we will have the adults in June-July, while that of the oak will be more in August-September-October. You should know that oak procession is very rare in Limousin. It is more common in the north-east of France. To distinguish them, the back of the pine sac is reddish-orange, the back of the other is rather dark brown-black. »