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The Killer Worms in Dogs - Spirocerca lupi

 08/20/2018

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It’s devastating to lose a pet which has become a member of your family, even more so when it is from a disease that is preventable or, if picked up early, easily treated.  Recently, I had a patient diagnosed with Spirocercosis.

Spirocerca lupi is an intestinal worm which can cause death in dogs.  It can be a silent killer as often the dogs’ symptoms are so subtle and misleading, by the time S.lupi is diagnosed, it is often too late. This disease is called Spirocercosis.

Unfortunately, the disease had progressed too far in my patient. He was euthanized despite our best efforts to save him.  So I am writing this to help make you aware of this disease and the role you can play in preventing it.

Dogs can pick up this worm by eating dung beetles or animals (rats, mice, birds or lizards) which have eaten the dung beetle which contains the larvae.  The larvae infect and cause disease in the dog.  Unlike other intestinal worms, this worm burrows through the stomach wall and finds its way to the aorta and the wall of the oesophagus.  They weaken the wall of the aorta, causing a high risk for an aneurysm (which can cause sudden death) and they form nodules in the oesophagus called granulomas.  These granulomas can eventually turn cancerous.

You may have heard your veterinarian advising monthly (28 days) deworming. This is not to make money off our clients but is rather for the safety of your pet.   Prevention is better than cure, and much cheaper than treatment!

The symptoms to look out for are burping, regurgitation of food, swallowing a lot, retching, vomiting and loss of weight.  These signs can start off very subtle and are sometimes missed.  They can be easier to pick up once you know what to look out for.

Advocate for Dogs

Correct diagnosis is based on an endoscopy, where the vet passes a camera down the dogs’ oesophagus, to visualise the nodules.  Chest x-rays may help in the later stages of the disease.

To prevent this horrible disease you can use Milbemax deworming (every 28 days) or apply monthly Advocate to your dog.

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