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Asp caterpillars are starting to pop up again in Central Texas

With fall finally creeping back, flannel moth caterpillars, or asps, are out and that could cause issues for you or your pets.

AUSTIN, Texas — Asp caterpillars may look furry and fun to play with but these hairs actually have an irritant on them that can cause issues for you and your pet.

An entomologist with Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) told us these are pretty common in Texas especially around this time of year. When the weather gets cold they are getting ready to go into their cocoons.

He said most people know you shouldn't touch them but animals don't know any better.

"So the hairs will actually be a defense mechanism for them, and if something brushes up against them, the hairs fall off and then they have an irritant, a chemical that actually causes them to irritate the skin of animals, people, anything that comes in contact with them," said Ross Winton, an invertebrate biologist with TPWD.

It's especially a problem for dogs who like to sniff their surroundings.

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If the hairs get caught into their throats or lungs, it can cause inflammation that could stop their breathing. But a local veterinarian says it's most likely not going to be that serious.

"So when we would want to see them is if there's, like, swelling occurring, especially if they put their face and the face starts swelling, also a reaction occurring where the airway could be compromised," said Laura Saunders, a veterinarian with Firehouse Animal Health Center. "So if their face starts swelling or the eyes start swelling, then we want to see them."

But what about people? 

Winton said it is a sting similar to stinging nettle. The best thing to do if you accidentally touch one is to get the hairs off quickly. Winton suggests using tape to pull off the hairs without spreading them more.

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