Winston Park Vet

Striving to enrich the quality of your pets health

Pet Info

Spirocerca Lupi: The Facts

Spirocerca Lupi is a worm that is becoming more common in South Africa’s summer rainfall areas. An infection of Spirocerca lupi will cause an invariably fatal disease of the oesophagus in DOGS, if left untreated. 

Symptoms include increased salivation, repeated swallowing and gagging, regurgitation, fever, and occasionally vomiting in infected dogs.

The lifecycle of this worms requires both the final host i.e. the dog AND an intermediate host i.e. scarab beetles (or other small mammals or birds that may have eaten the beetle) for the disease to occur. It is not possible for a dog to become infected without the ingestion of the intermediate host. Hadeda’s and their faeces are not involved in the lifecycle of this worm!

Once ingested, the third larval stage of this worm will burrow into the stomach wall where they migrate along the major arteries, in particular the aorta, back into the chest cavity of your dog. The Spirocerca larvae mature in the wall of the aorta causing severe damage and occasionally the rupture of the aorta, resulting in sudden death.

Once the larvae are mature they will migrate out of the wall of the aorta and into the wall of the oesophagus, where they live, mate and lay eggs. The nodules that form in the oesophagus cause most of the symptoms that have been described.

Diagnosis of the disease is made either by chest x rays or by passing an endoscope down the oesophagus in order to visualise the nodules or even the Spirocerca larvae. Not all nodules grow into the oesophagus and so it is possible to miss them.

Fortunately there are a number of drugs available that are effective in the treatment of this disease and in preventing further infections. As always, the sooner this disease is diagnosed and treatment begun, the more likely is a successful outcome.

Although preventative therapy is not yet proven beyond a doubt, evidence shows that there is an 80% reduction in the chance of an infection. It is, therefore our recommendation that all susceptible dogs be treated with an appropriate agent on a monthly basis to help prevent this devastating disease.