Are Fuzzy Caterpillars Poisonous to Dogs?

Dogs are man’s best friend, and if your dog enjoys roaming around the garden where butterflies are everywhere, you may be wondering if their fuzzy caterpillars can harm your pet. Caterpillars of all kinds can be found in a garden, especially if their host plants are present, and it’s natural to be concerned about your pet’s encounter with these creatures. So, are fuzzy caterpillars poisonous to dogs? This article will provide an answer to that question as well as advice on what to do in such a situation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Caterpillars may be perceived as toys by dogs, which may play with them with their mouths or feet, especially if they’re fuzzy.
  • Hairy caterpillars can be dangerous to your dogs if they have venomous spines or hairs that cause an allergic reaction to their skin.
  • Knowing which caterpillars are common in your area and when they emerge can help you keep your dog from being stung by them.

Are fuzzy caterpillars poisonous to dogs?

Buck moth caterpillar
Buck Moth caterpillar | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

While not all fuzzy caterpillars are poisonous, many of them can sting and cause allergic reactions. So, if you see these caterpillars in your yard where your dogs play, take precautions and ensure they don’t come into contact with the caterpillars to avoid harming them.

Is it possible for a caterpillar to kill a dog?

Saddleback caterpillar
Saddleback caterpillar | by Land Between the Lakes KY/TN via Flickr

Yes, a caterpillar can kill a dog, but only certain species of fuzzy larvae are venomous enough. Numerous caterpillars are found in gardens and parks, most of which are harmless. However, several species of hairy caterpillars have venomous fuzzy caterpillars with quill-like hairs connected to poison sacs.

When these hairs are touched, they can cause a painful sting that can cause swelling, itching, and redness. If the venom in the hairs gets into the eyes or mouth, it could be dangerous. These fuzzy caterpillars aren’t only dangerous to dogs, but they can also cause serious harm to humans if touched.

Signs that your dog has come into contact with a poisonous caterpillar

Puss moth caterpillar
Puss Moth Caterpillar on a branch | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Be aware that your dog’s reaction will vary depending on the kind of fuzzy caterpillar he came into contact with. Some will only cause mild itching, while others can cause severe reactions, so it’s critical to understand your dog’s response.

  • Excessive scratching or licking on a body part is one of the signs that a dog has come into contact with a fuzzy caterpillar. This can happen on any part of the dog’s body, but it usually happens when it comes into contact with a body part with very little fur.
  • Your dog may exhibit signs of discomfort, such as pawing, head shaking, and drooling if the caterpillar has touched his mouth or face.
  • Vomiting and swelling of the mouth can also occur in your dog as a result of ingesting a venomous caterpillar. Following the consumption of the poison from a poisonous caterpillar, they could also become lethargic and unresponsive.

Some signs may also include the following:

  • Increased salivation
  • Whimpering
  • Becomes less active
  • Refuses to eat
  • Shows aggressiveness

What to do if you think a caterpillar may have stung your dog?

Banded tussock moth caterpillar on log
Banded tussock moth caterpillar on log | image by Katja Schulz via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

If your dog exhibits any or all of the following symptoms, you should take the following steps:

  • Immediately rinse the affected area and wear protective gloves.
  • If caterpillar hairs are visible on the skin, use tape to remove them completely.
  • Apply a cold compress or sting relief cream to the affected area.
  • Determine what type of caterpillar your dog has encountered, if possible.
  • If symptoms such as vomiting persist, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Why do dogs eat caterpillars?

Caterpillars are unusual enough to catch the attention of most canines, who are naturally curious about new things in their environment. So, if your dog notices a fuzzy little creature crawling around on the floor or on a branch outside, they may investigate and even try to catch it.

When a dog realizes that a caterpillar isn’t food, it may decide that it’s a toy instead. That’s why it’s critical to be aware of any caterpillars in your garden, especially if your dog plays in the area.

Caterpillars that are dangerous to dogs

tussock moth caterpillar
Tussock moth caterpillar | by Forest Service Northern Region

Here are some of the most common venomous fuzzy caterpillars you and your dog might encounter in your garden. Knowledge and awareness of where these creatures are most widespread are your best options for avoiding getting stung.

  • Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Caterpillars of the tussock moth are common in North America. They’re native to Florida, but they can also be found from Texas to Alberta. These species are most active in May and June, and their larva stage lasts approximately 7 weeks.

Tussocks can be found on various plants, but birch, willow, aspen, and poplar trees are their preferred hosts.

  • Puss caterpillar

These hairy caterpillars are among North America’s most dangerous larvae. They can be found in fields, gardens, and even urban areas. Puss caterpillars prefer oak, elm, hackberry, maple, and sycamore trees as hosts and are most active in late spring and fall.

  • Saddleback caterpillar

Saddleback caterpillars have an unusual appearance that may appear to your dogs as toys. These creatures emerge in February and March and feed on a variety of plants, such as sunflowers, apples, asters, blueberries, grapes, and corn. They’re common in warm-weather states such as Massachusetts, Florida, and Texas.

  • Buck Moth Caterpillar

This moth larva can be found from Maine to Florida, as well as in Wisconsin, Kansas, and Texas. They’re most prevalent during April and May and can take up to two years in the pupal stage. Buck moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of oak tree species, so keep an eye on your dog if you have one in your garden.

Conclusion

Can fuzzy caterpillars harm dogs? Yes, but only a few of those species are capable. It’s still essential to be aware of the caterpillars in your area in order to keep your dog from being stung by one.

This information should help you make a more informed decision about how to handle your dog’s next encounter with one.