There are many, many parasites and pests that animals can pick up here in southern Spain – one of the down sides of living in a sunny, temperate climate.
It actually costs quite a bit to maintain healthy pets here, especially if you live out in the countryside, as we do. Our dogs need: rabies shots, parvo virus shots, worming every 3 months, flea drops every month, heartworm tablets every month, and protection from leishmaniasis. Plus, since we leave them in kennels when we’re away, they also need kennel cough protection. It’s expensive, and that is one reason we limit our collection to two dogs!
Many of the ex-pats don’t bother with all that, as it costs quite a bit of money. And until recently, most of the Spanish didn’t bother either, as dogs in a rural agricultural area tend to be working animals, not pets.
One thing we can’t protect our dogs against is the processionary caterpillar. It’s a huge problem – the things nest in downy nests in pine trees, then when they come out of the nest, they march as a group in a line (hence the “processionary” tag) to a nearby tree, then to make a new nest.
These things are dangerous to animals and people. They are fairly hairy, and the ‘hairs’ are extreme irritants. As you might imagine, the first thing a dog would do is sniff it, getting the hairs in their nose and throat, which promptly swell shut. If you don’t get the dog to the vet immediately, it’s usually fatal.
The first summer we were here, an 8-year-old boy was hospitalized after contact with the critters.
So we weren’t terribly pleased when today, we spotted 2 nests in a tree in our forest. We’ve been expecting it, as the caterpillars have been spreading through the area, but it still is not good news. It means that for the next few months, we’ll have to watch the dogs carefully every time we’re down there, and keep fingers crossed that they don’t find the caterpillars first!