This could be the ticking time bomb in your dog’s chest!

Why is it dangerous?

  • The oesophagus nodules can interfere with your dog’s swallowing and he/she may regurgitate undigested food (often confused with vomiting)
  • The nodules in the oesophagus may rupture and cause infection in the chest cavity.
  • The nodules can become cancerous over time.
  • The worm migration through the aorta can weaken the wall of the aorta leading to rupture and acute death.

How does my dog pick it up?

As you can see from the life cycle diagram below, dogs pick it up from eating beetles (or other animals that have eaten the beetles such as rats and birds). “But my dog doesn’t eat beetles” – most dogs will eat grass and may accidently ingest a beetle. Also many dogs that dig in the garden or root around in the lawn are actively seeking out beetles to eat!

spiro 2

How can I prevent it?  

Naturally, picking up the dog stools off the lawn on a daily basis will reduce the attraction of the type of beetles that feed on the stool (It is also effective in controlling the spread of other internal parasites in dogs). Stools should be disposed of in the rubbish or preferably flushed down the toilet.Two recently developed products have been proven to be effective in controlling Spirocerca lupi in dogs.

Milbemax is a deworming tablet and Advocate is “spot-on” treatment against many parasites in dogs including worms, ticks and fleas.

Due to the fact that the worm takes a long time to migrate from the stomach to the aorta (3 weeks) and finally to the oesophagus (10 – 12 weeks), monthly treatment with one of these products is believed to be effective in preventing infestation with adult worms.

I think my dog has it!  

Consult your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to diagnose if your dog is infected and to what extent.

How is it treated?  

If your dog has early or mild infestation, your veterinarian may recommend Advocate or Milbemax treatment usually at weekly rather than monthly intervals. Other drugs such as doramectin may be necessary. If your dog is showing advanced or complicated disease (cancer of the oesophagus or rupture of the oesophagus), treatment is more challenging. Your veterinarian will know how best to handle the situation.


(1)    Pet’s Health Winter 2012

(2)    Spirocerca lupi home page: University of Pennsylvania


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