CAS: Return of the Caterpillars

Thursday, January 24, 2013
By CAS

Return of the Caterpillars
Dog owners are being given their annual warning about the annual appearance of caterpillars which can cause serious problems for their pets. The nests of the Pine Processionary moth began appearing, earlier than usual, by the middle of last month, high up in the branches of pine trees. These look like balls of cotton wool or candy floss but each is actually full of up to 200 maturing caterpillars.

Soon, the creatures will be ready for the next stage of their development and will fall to the ground where they will begin their annual march into underground burrows. Here they will remain dormant until summer when they emerge as harmless moths.

The caterpillars get their name because they undertake this march in single file lines and follow one another, much like a religious procession. The danger for pets, as well as humans, is because, at this stage of their life-cycle, they possess an unusual defence mechanism. Processional Caterpillars are covered in fine white hairs which can cause at least skin irritation and at worst anaphylactic shock. The caterpillars can travel along the ground for long distances so the menace may be apparent far from the nearest pine tree.

Unfortunately, the inherently curious nature of dogs and cats may lead them to investigate these unusual creatures. If a pet was to sniff, lick our bite these caterpillars, it would almost certainly suffer a severe allergic reaction which, in the worst scenario, can cause airway closure and death. Other, luckier pets have lost part of their tongues after licking a caterpillar.

The symptoms of exposure to caterpillar hair are excessive drooling or frothing at the mouth, difficulty in breathing and/or white spots in the mouth or tongue. If you think your pet is suffering from these symptoms, vets recommend that the animal’s mouth is flushed out with as much water as possible and that the animal is taken immediately for emergency treatment.

Avoid contact with the animal’s saliva because the toxin can affect humans as well. The young, the elderly and those who suffer from toxic allergies should be kept well away.

To minimise the problem, farmers cut down the nests and then burn them in a metal bucket to prevent as many of the hairs as possible being left to float off in the air. Treading on the caterpillars does not destroy these toxic hairs.

And anyone thinking of taking a pre-emptive strike against these nests should bear in mind that they too are full of caterpillar hair, which can easily fall out when disturbed. Exposure by humans has been known to cause a severely itchy rash that can last up to three weeks, temporary blindness and/or respiratory problems. Take appropriate precautions or hire a professional.

Frida’s Story
Frida was found at a petrol station near Almuñécar with a completely broken ankle but it still took a Good Samaritan several weeks to gain Frida’s trust and take her home.

However, by that time a severe infection had set in and the injured leg required specialist treatment. The rescuer contacted the Costa Animal Society and CAS organised a fund raising effort with another charity to pay for antibiotic two surgeries, including pins with a bone graft, and a place for Frida to recuperate at a local kennels.

Fortunately, despite a 60/40 odds, Frida has fully recovered from her injuries and after 3 month in kennels she has now been adopted by a lovely family in the Nerja area.

CAS Needs Your Help!
The Costa Animal Society are appealing urgently for more helpers. Even for those who don’t want to work hands-on with the animals, there are many other support tasks which need attention.

First, more car-owners are needed to help with transport to Málaga airport with dogs which are bound for new homes in the Netherlands and Germany. Normally, two people travel with the animal and check it in with the airline.

All the paper work is done in advance and the lucky dogs flies off to be met at its destination by the relevant local charity. To find out more, speak to Simone on 619 903 815.

Then, extra pairs of hands are needed to collect donations of goods which are sold at the car boot sales to raise funds. The items which are picked up locally have to be delivered to the CAS office in Nerja.

The car boot sales are a very important source of income to the charity and helpers are needed to run the CAS stalls at Nerja and Almuñécar on Sundays and at Trapiche on Tuesdays.

In Nerja’s case, a rota is operated by those who have a large 4×4 or a tow bar on their vehicle to take a trailer to and from the Sunday market, but more drivers are need to spread the load. Anyone who could help with any aspect of the car boot sales is asked to have a chat with Wendy on 95 203 7095 or 660 271 984.

And could anyone help out at Almuñécar on Sundays? If so, Colin would like to hear from you on 666 812 927.

As ever, CAS has many jobs to do and too few people to do them! Some of your time would be greatly appreciated.

(News/Club: Costa Animal Society)

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