Are Caterpillars Dangerous to Dogs?

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We all know that caterpillars eventually metamorphose into moths and beautiful butterflies. However, in order to reach adulthood, nature has provided some species with toxic defenses against being eaten by predators. These can harm pooches and people, although in most cases the effect is not life-threatening.


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Stinging Caterpillars

There are at least seven types of stinging caterpillar in the U.S. Most are moth caterpillars, although the monarch butterfly caterpillar can give your pooch a serious sting as well. The majority of species to watch out for live in deciduous tree habitats. These caterpillars have hairs and barbs that deliver a poison when touched. The worst villain is the cute looking puss moth. Others to watch out for are the buck and Io moth, the saddleback, hag and stinging rose caterpillars. Fortunately, most have distinctive coloration, making them easier to spot.


Canines and Caterpillars

If you have a pup that loves chasing bugs and happens to eat a stinging caterpillar, he may have a localized itching and swelling in the mouth and throat. In general, he is more likely to get stung on the nose. Veterinary treatment is usually antihistamines and steroids. The monarch butterfly caterpillar can deliver a toxin that affects the heart. In warmer climates, the pine processionary caterpillar presents a serious threat to dogs, but it is not widespread in the U.S.

By Eleanor McKenzie



Ask the Vet: Dogs Who Love Bugs
University of Kentucky: Stinging Caterpillars
Pet Vet Kamu: Pine Processionary Caterpillars

About the Author
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.