Beware of Slugs and Snails and Angiostrongylus (lungworm)

snailTo a gardener, slugs and snails can be a nuisance because they eat your plants, but to dogs they can pose a serious health risk because they act as an intermediate host for one of the most serious types of internal worms.

The worm called Angiostrongylus Vasorum is sometimes referred to as lungworm or heartworm (although other types of lungworm and heartworm also exist). It affects dogs and foxes, and in the last few years it seems to have spread across most of Northern Europe including the U.K. I have seen two cases in the south-west of England in the last year. I am pleased to say that both dogs survived but they were both very ill for a time.

The life cycle of this parasite takes place partly inside the dog (the host) and partly inside the snail or slug (the intermediate host). An infected dog or fox will have adult worms in the lungs and blood vessels, which produce eggs. These worm eggs are coughed up and swallowed by the dog, and then passed out in the faeces. They are then eaten by the slug or snail, which completes the cycle of infestation when eaten by another dog.

dog_drinking_puddleIt can be easy to see, or hear, if your dog eats a snail because of the crunching sounds, but it is much harder to know if they eat slugs. Unfortunately some of the slugs are quite small and any dog which grazes on grass or drinks from puddles could be swallowing tiny slugs.

The symptoms of infection with this parasite can be quite varied. The effects on the lungs may cause coughing or breathlessness on exercise. Various bleeding disorders can be caused by the blood failing to clot, which may show as nosebleeds or bleeding in the mouth or eyes, or unexpected bleeding after surgery. Less commonly the brain, kidneys or central nervous system can be affected. All of these are serious and can be fatal.

Diagnosing the cause of the problem is by a combination of a physical examination, blood tests and faecal tests (to identify worm larvae). Other tests such as x-rays or ultrasound imaging may be necessary in cases where the symptoms are less clear cut, to distinguish this from other conditions.

The good news is that treatment is available with a number of drugs available from your vet. Some commonly prescribed worm tablets and some commonly prescribed flea treatments will kill this parasite (when used as directed by your vet, which may be more frequently than for other parasites), and this is just one reason why all dogs should follow a suitable parasite treatment regime. Dogs with more serious symptoms will require intensive care and possibly blood transfusions and other drugs.

The best advice to dog owners to avoid this problem is:

  1. Ask your vet which is the most suitable product to use for routine worm and flea treatment, and use it regularly, even if you don’t suspect that your dog has any parasites.
  2. Try to stop your dog eating slugs and snails if you can.
  3. Pick up your dog’s faeces and dispose of properly.
  4. Don’t be tempted to use slug bait, as this can be very poisonous.

Please ask at your veterinary surgery if you would like more information or advice on this very unpleasant parasite.

Jenny Sheriff BVM&S MRCVS

3/12/09

If you are concerned that your dog is coughing or having nosebleeds use the interactive dog symptom guide to find out what you should do.

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58 thoughts on “Beware of Slugs and Snails and Angiostrongylus (lungworm)

  1. I have a 9 month old Working Cocker Spaniel puppy who will whenever she can bring snails in from the garden, I don’t think that she has eaten any as my husband check to see if or what she has on entering the house, has any one got got any tips as to how I could stop her doing this as she might eat one one day.from Denise.

  2. I have a 9 month old Working Cocker Spaniel puppy who will whenever she can bring snails in from the garden, I don’t think that she has eaten any as my husband check to see if or what she has on entering the house, has any one got got any tips as to how I could stop her doing this as she might eat one one day.from Denise.

  3. It is worth trying to remove snails from the garden and especially from your pet’s mouth, but don’t forget that some of the host snails and slugs are so small that you may not see them. They can lurk in wet grass and in puddles and be swallowed without the owner noticing. So your dogs best protection is regular worming. Not all products treat this particular worm, so do seek advice from your vet and mention that your dog may eat snails. I hope your cocker puppy’s liking for snails does not cause her any problems.
    Jenny

  4. It is worth trying to remove snails from the garden and especially from your pet’s mouth, but don’t forget that some of the host snails and slugs are so small that you may not see them. They can lurk in wet grass and in puddles and be swallowed without the owner noticing. So your dogs best protection is regular worming. Not all products treat this particular worm, so do seek advice from your vet and mention that your dog may eat snails. I hope your cocker puppy’s liking for snails does not cause her any problems.
    Jenny

  5. My 8 week old puppy has just eaten a snail from the garden. I’ve just seen the empty shell! He was wormed about 2 weeks ago. Can anyone advise me on what I need to do. Do i worm him again? Thanks.
    Karan

  6. My 8 week old puppy has just eaten a snail from the garden. I’ve just seen the empty shell! He was wormed about 2 weeks ago. Can anyone advise me on what I need to do. Do i worm him again? Thanks.
    Karan

  7. If I have already spot-on’d my dog for fleas and I think it needs a prophylactic treatment for lung worm, is there a product which can be used – preferably an oral tablet / granules?

  8. If I have already spot-on’d my dog for fleas and I think it needs a prophylactic treatment for lung worm, is there a product which can be used – preferably an oral tablet / granules?

  9. Hi i have a 14 week old border collie i think he’s just eaten a few slugs in the garden! He was wormed and vaccinated about 3 weeks ago…. will he be ok or is it worth a trip to the vets??? Any help would be great!! Thanks!!

  10. Hi i have a 14 week old border collie i think he’s just eaten a few slugs in the garden! He was wormed and vaccinated about 3 weeks ago…. will he be ok or is it worth a trip to the vets??? Any help would be great!! Thanks!!

  11. Hi my puppy has had a slug in his mouth will he be ok hes not eaten it any advice please as im worryed

    1. Hi Christine, he should be okay, obviously keep an eye on him, if you have any concerns please contact you own vet – there is a great spot-on treatment available for Lungworm, which you can get from them… it might be advisable to get some for him if he likes picking slugs up!

  12. Hi my puppy has had a slug in his mouth will he be ok hes not eaten it any advice please as im worryed

    1. Hi Christine, he should be okay, obviously keep an eye on him, if you have any concerns please contact you own vet – there is a great spot-on treatment available for Lungworm, which you can get from them… it might be advisable to get some for him if he likes picking slugs up!

  13. My dog ate a slug…actually I’m not sure.:( But ever since I checked up on him in the afternoon hes been down lately and just a few hours ago hes been vomiting and he actually pooped out blood. I don’t know if these are actual symptoms from having lung worm or side effects from eating the slug. I read online that he would get diarrhea but he hasn’t and I’ve been keeping him hydrated. And since it’s really late right now no vet place is open so I’m forced to wait until morning to see how he is doing. What should I do to help him even more? Or could be that it is something else he ate?

    1. Hi, We hope your dog is okay and recovered… unfortunately the blog is not monitored over the weekend and in cases where pets are poorly, it is best to contact a vet – even as an emergency (some may offer advice over the phone).

  14. My dog ate a slug…actually I’m not sure.:( But ever since I checked up on him in the afternoon hes been down lately and just a few hours ago hes been vomiting and he actually pooped out blood. I don’t know if these are actual symptoms from having lung worm or side effects from eating the slug. I read online that he would get diarrhea but he hasn’t and I’ve been keeping him hydrated. And since it’s really late right now no vet place is open so I’m forced to wait until morning to see how he is doing. What should I do to help him even more? Or could be that it is something else he ate?

    1. Hi, We hope your dog is okay and recovered… unfortunately the blog is not monitored over the weekend and in cases where pets are poorly, it is best to contact a vet – even as an emergency (some may offer advice over the phone).

  15. My garden has a few slugs in it under the grass and I am frightened incase my 9 month old puppy eats them she is up to date with worming, jag’s and spot on flea treatment. Any advice would be great thanks.

  16. My garden has a few slugs in it under the grass and I am frightened incase my 9 month old puppy eats them she is up to date with worming, jag’s and spot on flea treatment. Any advice would be great thanks.

  17. Hi my 6 half month old french bulldog i think has just eat a slug i try keep my dogs away from them an try get rid of them all im really worried what shall i do?

  18. Hi my 6 half month old french bulldog i think has just eat a slug i try keep my dogs away from them an try get rid of them all im really worried what shall i do?

  19. Both my dogs have been eating somthing at our local park foe a few weeks. I have tried to find out what it is ,but it’s proved impossible . Today I saw my bitch eating a snail in my garden.She is a terrible foodie . I know it will be impossible for me to get the slugs and snails from my garden. They both are treated for lungworm with their combined flea treatment . Does that make it compleatly safe for them .

  20. Both my dogs have been eating somthing at our local park foe a few weeks. I have tried to find out what it is ,but it’s proved impossible . Today I saw my bitch eating a snail in my garden.She is a terrible foodie . I know it will be impossible for me to get the slugs and snails from my garden. They both are treated for lungworm with their combined flea treatment . Does that make it compleatly safe for them .

    1. Hi Lee, just keep an eye out for any problems, speak to your vet if worried. If your dog tends to like slugs and snails, treating them monthly with a prescribed medication from your vets.

    1. Hi Lee, just keep an eye out for any problems, speak to your vet if worried. If your dog tends to like slugs and snails, treating them monthly with a prescribed medication from your vets.

  21. Hello!! Our chihuahua started having diaherrea and now just pooped out blood, we haven’t fed her any food so we think she might be straining herself. About 10 minutes ago she puked up her water with mucus in it. I think she might of ate a snail? We are always catching her eating something in our yard but does it sound like she ate a snail?

  22. Hello!! Our chihuahua started having diaherrea and now just pooped out blood, we haven’t fed her any food so we think she might be straining herself. About 10 minutes ago she puked up her water with mucus in it. I think she might of ate a snail? We are always catching her eating something in our yard but does it sound like she ate a snail?

  23. My 6 month old Sheltie. Swolled a wasp 3 weeks ago, so we think and she has developed A cough that sounds at the end she is going to vomit, she is eating drinking and running around, she on heart worm tablets otherwise very healthy what do you think I should do,? has it happens. 6 times a day
    Regards
    Tracey

    1. We’d advise to see your vet with them, they may want to check her further to find the cause of the cough.

  24. My 6 month old Sheltie. Swolled a wasp 3 weeks ago, so we think and she has developed A cough that sounds at the end she is going to vomit, she is eating drinking and running around, she on heart worm tablets otherwise very healthy what do you think I should do,? has it happens. 6 times a day
    Regards
    Tracey

    1. We’d advise to see your vet with them, they may want to check her further to find the cause of the cough.

  25. Can little garden slugs be dangerous to cats? Think my youngest cat has eaten the ones ive just hoycked out of a plant pot that I was about to use? 3 small slugs tiny, but still slugs. It’s Sat so I can’t call the vet and am now worried?
    Help!
    Many thanks… K

  26. Can little garden slugs be dangerous to cats? Think my youngest cat has eaten the ones ive just hoycked out of a plant pot that I was about to use? 3 small slugs tiny, but still slugs. It’s Sat so I can’t call the vet and am now worried?
    Help!
    Many thanks… K

  27. my 16 week shih tzu is only now allowed after fater his vaccinations and I had to take a small slug from his mouth yesterday in the back garden , how can I get rid of these horrible things without harming him

    1. It is very difficult , if not impossible. The best advice if you are concerned about lungworm, is to have him treated with a parasite control that stops lungworm.

  28. my 16 week shih tzu is only now allowed after fater his vaccinations and I had to take a small slug from his mouth yesterday in the back garden , how can I get rid of these horrible things without harming him

    1. It is very difficult , if not impossible. The best advice if you are concerned about lungworm, is to have him treated with a parasite control that stops lungworm.

  29. Hi there there’s been recent problem with many slugs when I take my max out. He’s nine months old. I’ve just recently wormed him and when walked him tonight seen him sniffing a slug. Just wondering if he be ok and not to be under any real risk with this. Thank you.

  30. Hi there there’s been recent problem with many slugs when I take my max out. He’s nine months old. I’ve just recently wormed him and when walked him tonight seen him sniffing a slug. Just wondering if he be ok and not to be under any real risk with this. Thank you.

  31. Will this have the same sort of effect on other pets such as in my case, my Rabbit? Slugs always seem to get in and try at his food and he then eats from the bowl, ive only just seen this and I saw a random slug with little mites crawling over it and this is what made me read up about this and ive found your site. Any comments helpful. Thanks

    1. Hi Adele,

      Lungworm will only affect dogs, if the slug or snail is ingested and is infected with the worm. Your rabbit should be safe!

  32. Will this have the same sort of effect on other pets such as in my case, my Rabbit? Slugs always seem to get in and try at his food and he then eats from the bowl, ive only just seen this and I saw a random slug with little mites crawling over it and this is what made me read up about this and ive found your site. Any comments helpful. Thanks

    1. Hi Adele,

      Lungworm will only affect dogs, if the slug or snail is ingested and is infected with the worm. Your rabbit should be safe!

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