Dog owners in certain areas across the UK are being asked to remain vigilant to caterpillars of the Oak processionary moth, a native of Southern Europe, as we head into Summer.

Symptoms reported in dogs, especially dogs which have licked, sniffed, picked up or tried to eat caterpillars or nests, include hyper-salivation, swelling of the tongue, conjunctivitis, gagging, vomiting, respiratory distress and inflammation of the mouth.

People, too, can develop rashes and eye and throat irritations from exposure to caterpillars of the Oak processionary moth (OPM), an exotic species which was accidentally introduced 11 years ago. It is possible that it will be found in southern parts of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire this year.

The hairs can be blown by the wind, and they build up in the caterpillars’ silken webbing nests, which they build on the branches and trunks of oak trees in May and June, sometimes at ground level. Nests sometimes fall to the ground, and the caterpillars sometimes descend to the ground, posing a risk to inquisitive animals such as cats and dogs, grazing animals, and playing children.

The Forestry Commission is leading efforts with councils and major landowners to minimise the spread, population and impacts of the pest in a Defra-funded control programme. Andrew Hoppit, its OPM project manager said,
“It’s essential that dog owners in the affected areas are aware of this pest and the hazard it poses to their animals, themselves and their families. Dogs are naturally curious animals which like to investigate items of interest, but they really must be restrained from doing this in the case of OPM nests and caterpillars.

“I also encourage dog owners in the affected areas to help our control programme by reporting sightings of the pest using our on-line Tree Alert reporting tool.

“Our website has a lot of helpful information, including guides to recognising OPM.”

Read more about the caterpillar here and areas most at risk:

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