Worm Advice – Spirocerca Lupi

Please be aware of symptoms and prevention.


As an additional survey to this post please comment if one of your pets has been diagnosed with Spiroserca Lupi – add a brief description of their story and say which area you are from. (If you are from an organisation please estimate the amount of animals you have treated recently along with your area). I am interested in the prevalence in each province.


Forward and share with your friends who have dogs.


**Apon further research I found that Spirocerca lupi is more common in South Africa’s summer rainfall areas.**




There is an increase of a silent killer worm in dogs. It is often only found after it is too late to treat the disease and we want to try reduce the incidence by trying to prevent it.


Spirocerca Lupi


Spirocerca is a nematode that forms a nodule if the pets oesophagus. This often becomes cancerous and causes problems swallowing.


A dung beetle would ingest worm eggs while working with and rolling these infected faeces. The eggs hatch, releasing larvae, which mature to the infective stage within the beetle.


  1. A dog may then eat the intermediate hosts, the beetles, or small animals such as mice, rats, lizards or birds., thereby ingesting the larvae. These little animals can carry worm larvae which your dog ingests when eating them.

Left arrow indicates a Spirocerca removed from the granuloma, indicated by the right arrow

Left arrow indicates a Spirocerca removed from the granuloma, indicated by the right arrow


  1. Once the dog has eaten a beetle or other intermediary carrying larvae of

Spirocerca lupi, the larvae are released within the dog’s stomach during the digestive process.

  1. The larvae are released into your dog’s digestive tract, after which they move through the intestinal walls and into your dog’s bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the worm larvae will migrate through out your dog’s body resulting in disease.
  2. The larvae reach the aorta (the main artery in body) via small arteries that drain the stomach.. In the main artery they mature, a process which takes about three months weakening the walls and causing aneurisms, after which they pass through the wall of the artery into the wall of the oesophagus.
  3. In the oesophagus wall they form a swelling, known as a granuloma, in which the worms live.
  4. The worms produce eggs through a small hole in the granuloma that are then passed in the faeces.



As the worms grow bigger the granuloma grows bigger. One obvious problem is in swallowing. Now sometimes, dogs will show signs of fever, vomit, retch or regurgitate due to difficulty swallowing, poor appetite, weight loss or lethargy. Other times, it may be more subtle. Dogs may just be off their food; lick their lips; cry when swallowing; ‘cough’ or ‘retch’. Some dogs just lose weight but continue eating.
Other dogs become anaemic because some nodules may bleed, which can cause a very dark or even black stool due to the presence of blood in the stool. These nodules may turn cancerous and the cancer can spread to the lungs. Sudden death can occur if an aneurism in the aorta ruptures, causing your dog to bleed out in seconds.

Some Consequences Of Spirocercosis


**Dogs react differently to these nodules: some dogs, especially fox terriers, show signs of sever irritation with even small nodules (gagging, swallowing, retching) whereas other dogs may show no symptoms until the nodules are large.**


Apart from the manifestations and consequences mentioned, the worm can also:


Kill patients by damaging the aorta



Obstruct the oesophagus



Trigger the immune system

Migrate to places other than those expected


Granulomata can transform into cancers. Usually malignant osteosarcomas, which can spread to other organs, especially the lungs.


migration of the worm

migration of the worm

How Is It Diagnosed?


Firstly, the vet must suspect it. Given its propensity for bizarre manifestations, this can sometimes be hard. Nonetheless, it can be diagnosed in most cases by a combination of careful questioning, chest X-rays, fibre scope (endoscopic) evaluation of the oesophagus and stomach and special faecal flotation techniques. Sometimes, the diagnosis is just a surprise.


How Is It Treated?


At the time of first writing this article the problem in treatment is that there was no drug registered as effective against S. Lupi in South Africa. There are some drugs that do kill Spirocerca.

However, once your dog has been diagnosed, the appropriate treatment will be decided by your pooch’s vet. The treatment process is lengthy, initially starting with daily or weekly treatments for 6 to 8 weeks, then moving onto monthly treatments for several months. If your dog is left untreated it will eventually succumb to the disease. The earlier the treatment is started, the more successful it is.


According to the study Milbemicycin which is found in the Milbemax dewormer and also in Program

Plus can have an effect against Spirocerca. They also seem to control infections if used regularly.

Advocate flea and dewormer spot-on also seems to have some control on Spirocerca.

There is a proprietary cattle parasiticide called doramectin. This drug appears to be effective by either injection or by mouth but is not registered for use in dogs.

What do I do if one of my dogs has been diagnosed but I have others at home?

The ideal situation would be to scope each of your dogs. If this is not possible due to financial constraints then your dogs can be placed on preventative medication, if they appear healthy.

Preventative medication is ideal for all animals in the household. Especially if one dog has been exposed to this nasty worm, then there is a chance that your other dogs may have also been exposed.




Keeping the garden clear of dog faeces will help in reducing the number of dung beetles. Unfortunately there is no registered treatment or prevention for Spirocerca.

There does seem to be a response to monthly treatment with Advocate or milbemycin (Program Plus or Milbemax) and until further research has been done it is recommended that all dogs be put on a monthly treatment from a young age.


**Deworming your dog monthly is the preferred method of controlling all other worms (round and tapeworm) as their lifecycles are about 21 days long and monthly deworming prevents them from maturing and laying eggs, contaminating your environment. This disease has not been documented to affect humans, and only rarely cats. So take the bull by the horns with this devastating disease and get your dogs checked by your veterinarian and start a monthly preventative program.**


Heartworm… Don’t Get Yourself In A Knott!


In KZN, there is the added problem that a normally innocuous heartworm may be inhabiting your dog’s circulatory system at the same time that he or she is affected by Spirocerca. The treatment for Spirocerca will also kill the heartworm. This can sometimes cause an anaphylactic reaction in the pet and some pets can react quite badly and need other treatment. Blood tests can check for the heartworm before starting treatment for Spirocerca.




  1. South African Veterinary Association:

Compiled by: Dr Liesel van der Merwe, Valley Farm Animal Hospital, Pretoria


Published Article


  1. Inanda Vets – user files Pdf File


  1. Dog World


Featured Article courtesy of University of PTA


  1. Worm picture: Courtesy Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, University of Pretoria


5. I noticed that most “breed” pages (eg: Beagle SA, Husky Rescue) also have info on their websites

For info about feeding your dogs raw meat and spirocerca lupi click here to read Vondi’s Blog

If you would like to feature as a writer on 8ight contact me on 8ightinfinity@gmail.com links are always included to your site and social media therefore leaving all credit in tact.

You can follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Google+ or Tumblr

Last but not least you can fill in your email addy in the “you have mail” box (in the right hand column or in the bottom right hand corner), click the “follow” button and have up coming posts delivered to your email. *Try it – it’s as good as having your dog bring your newspaper to you in the mornings*

AND THANK YOU for stopping by!!


About Di

Di believes that the most important and most fulfilling “job” she has is being a mom of two. She is an author and animal communicator. Her greatest passion is animals and their welfare. She enjoys writing about animals and topics to help others with their spiritual growth.

Posted on July 2, 2012, in Animal Welfare, Di's Articles, Doggy Style, Interesting Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. I’m so sorry to hear this Kirsty. Thank you for your response.

  2. Our 7 year old Boxer had Spirocerca. Also started with vomiting after eating. He was treated, but I think we caught it too late. He eventually developed cancer and subsequently Mari’s Disease (his bones “swelled” because of the cancer) and we had to put him down. We are in Kzn.

  3. Hi
    Our Jack Russel – (12 years old) has been treated for the Spiro worm (6 injections every 4 days.) A month later she is in a very poor condition – worse than when first diagnosed.(scope done and blood tests) She will now follow a maintenance plan 1 injection every 4 weeks. She eats , (only soft food) but spits up a lot of slime and battles to walk at times. Does it take a long time until they are better. At times she makes groaning noises as if in pain and I would hate her to suffer as much as I would hate to make the decision to end her life.
    Northern Cape

  4. Hello Di, my 4 year old Boerboel was diagnosed with spirocerca lupi yesterday. I’d never heard of it, but I know there is a similar thing in America called Heartworm. Bramble started regurgitating her food after every meal (& then re-eating it – ugh) 3 days ago. She now has to have a weekly injection for the next month & then re-evaluation by our amazing vet, Arina Shepherd. We live in rural Natal near Bergville & my dogs are taken for a walk in the veldt every day & are always eating all sorts of rubbish. I hope this treatment works as this condition is scary. Anne

  5. So sorry to hear about your incredibly sad losses 😦 RIP beautiful souls xxx

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