Pet Threats and Animal Dangers in Spain

Be aware of the possible dangers and threats to your cat or dog in Spain...

There are certain insects and predators that present a danger to animals in Spain, both on the coast and further inland. These threats to pets tend to be regional so it's advisable to discuss the local dangers with your vet. However, here are some of the most significant threats to pets and animals in the Mediterranean area.

Leishmaniasis

Leishmaniasis is a disease that mainly affects domestic dogs. In humans it is called Kala-Azar which is the Indian for black fever. It is carried by a small, yellow sand fly that resembles a mosquito and is around two to three millimetres long. Mediterranean countries are severely affected by this disease. It is said that the fly carrying the disease does not bite at sea level, only at altitude - but the altitude at which they bite is not high. Any question about the area can be addressed to the local ayuntamiento (town hall) or vet.

Typically the fly bites the exposed skin of the dog (nose and ears). Dogs can incubate Leishmaniasis for over a year before displaying symptoms, which vary from dog to dog. One clue is when the hair around a dog's eyes drops out and claws grow abnormally. Infected animals will lose weight, become anaemic and often display symptoms of renal failure. If medical help is not sought, the dog will die after several months.

There are products (available from vets) that can protect against the bite if applied regularly and should be used to protect against this disease from spring to autumn, when the risk is highest. Also cattle pest control badges are said to protect against the bites, but the best protection is to keep a dog inside from before dusk until after dawn, the time when the flies are most active.

Processionary Caterpillars or Procesionarias del Pino

The processionary pine caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is usually three to four centimetres long, brown and hairy. At the start of spring the caterpillars come out of round, white, fuzzy nests built in pine trees (normally property owners will burn these nests if they see them) and travel down the tree and across the ground in single file, sometimes stopping in writhing circles. This phenomenon will continue well into the summer.

These caterpillars are extremely dangerous as they "burn" the flesh of any animal, child or person that touches them. A small animal can die from the burn on contact. If a pet comes in to contact with these caterpillars it is advisable to seek veterinary assistance immediately.

Heartworm

Heartworm disease (Dirofilaria immitis) is caused by a parasite carried and transmitted in its larvae stage by mosquitoes. Once the larvae matures the adult worms reside in the pulmonary arteries (blood vessels in the lungs), and cause blockages, inflammation and damage to blood vessels. While most commonly found in cats and dogs, other species can be infected.

The infection can not be detected during the six first months with no signs of infection usually apparent until the worms mature.

Symptoms include coughing, exhaustion, severe weight loss and fainting. Cats may also get pneumonia-like symptoms, diarrhoea and may vomit.

The disease is not easy to treat and can be fatal; however early diagnosis may result in full recovery. Prevention is preferable and a pet can be protected from infection with the use of anti-mosquito drops and collar treatments.

The parasite is common in the south of France, in Spain and Portugal, and Italy.

Poisonous Snakes in Spain

There are some poisonous snakes that can cause death if they bite an animal. For more information on poisonous snakes, see:

Dangerous Ticks in Spain

As in most hot countries, ticks can be a serious problem for pets and not only do they spread disease but they can cause serious discomfort to the animal. Two of the most common diseases are Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis. In horses, Babesiosis is referred to as Equine Piroplasmosis (EP) or Biliary Fever, and can cause death within 48 hours in severe cases. Take advice from the local vet in order to ensure that the animal is adequately protected. Drops and collars are available for cats and dogs.

Note: if tick bite disease is ignored it can be fatal.

Hunting and Dog Walking

Dog walkers should be aware that hunting is practised in many rural parts of Spain and that the season for certain species may be quite long. It's recommended to wear bright red clothing and keep the dog close at hand or on lead.

Hunters may register parcels of land (which they may own or rent) as reserved for hunting certain species. These areas carry the sign stating Coto privado de caza and should be avoided by dog walkers.

During the breeding season of perdiz, a partridge-like game bird, private hunting groups may lay out poisoned meat to help to protect the nests from roaming dogs.

Glossary

English Spanish
fleas pulgas
ticks garrapatas
bedbugs chinches
lice piojos
wasps avispas
bees abejas
snake serpiente
bumblebees abejorros
horse flies tábanos
processionary caterpillars procesionarias del pino