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Spirocerca Lupi, the “silent killer” & the importance of regular deworming for our pets.

How often do you deworm your pets? Many pet owners will deworm once or twice a year; when in fact it is important to deworm your pets more regularly.

There are a number of different species of endoparasites (worms) like roundworm, hook room, whipworm and tapeworm (carried by fleas) that can pose varying health risks to your pet. However, a lesser-known but particularly dangerous and potentially lethal type of worm species is called Spirocerca Lupi and is found across South Africa including in Gauteng.

How do our dogs become infected by Spirocerca? The Coprophagous dung beetle is a carrier of Spirocerca Lupi eggs that are ingested by our dogs (or transmitted by eating other animals such as birds, lizards, and rats which also eat the beetle). The beetle is very small, approximately 6mm in size and once ingested by a dog, the Spirocerca Lupi larvae eventually form large nodules in the lower oesophagus. The time frame from ingestion to nodule formation can be anything from 2.5 to 6 months. These nodules can be very dangerous to our pets and if not treated can be deadly.

Possible symptoms that your pet has Spirocerca include:

  • Vomiting & regurgitation
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy & weight loss
  • Pale gums, lips & swollen feet

Prevention is better than a cure and it is recommended to deworm monthly with products that are effective against Spirocerca such as Milbemax or Advocate.

Be aware that certain dog breeds (such as collies and other herding breeds), may be sensitive to these drugs and it is important to consult your veterinarian beforehand.

Treatment of Spirocerca involves ridding the host animal of the parasites using drugs mentioned above. However, depending on the severity of the infestation or the damage caused, other treatments may be required.

If your pet is displaying uncharacteristic behaviours or you are worried about his or her general wellbeing, it is always recommended to seek veterinary assistance. Regular deworming is recommended especially in pets who frequent outdoor spaces such as parks.