What Happens if My Dog Eats a Snail?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. September 5, 2018
What Happens if My Dog Eats a Snail?

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Dogs can be very adventurous when it comes to what they eat. Some of the most unpleasant looking things to us, seem to be irresistible to our canine friends. When it is our slippers from under our bed or a piece of relatively harmless garbage, we might not be too concerned. However, if we see our dog eating snails it is not unnatural to wonder if there are any health concerns attached. Whether your dog has access to a garden or is out walking in a grassy area, there is a greater chance of finding these squidgy little molluscs. AnimalWised looks into the possible health repercussions by answering what happens if your dog eats a snail? In doing so, we can also find some general ways we can prevent our dog from doing this in the future.

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Is it bad for dogs to eat snails?

Some parasites are transmitted to our dogs by other animals. The best known are insects such as ticks or mosquitoes, biting the skin and transmitting the disease into the blood stream as a vector. However, it is also possible for snails to infect our dogs with two different types of nematode (or roundworms) which can affect vital organs such as the heart and lungs. They are the Angiostrongylus vasorum, also known as the French heartworm, and the Crenosoma vulpis. For this reason, snails pose a potential risk for dogs when they eat slugs. If the snail is not hosting a parasite, then there should be little concern, but it is impossible to tell once they have been ingested.

When infected with these parasites from snails, infected dogs can remain asymptomatic, others can develop respiratory and blood issues. These include coagulopathies which are potentially fatal to the dog. Asymptomatic cases are difficult, especially if the dog eats a snail while we aren't looking. For this reason, it is important to pay general attention to your dog's well being, but also to keep an eye out for more specific symptoms.

Disease transmitted to dogs from snails: angiostrongylosis

The parasite Angiostrongylus vasorum can have various adverse effects on a dog's health. These issues include:

  • Coagulopathy
  • Decrease in platelet levels
  • Obstruction of pulmonary arteries
  • Thrombosis
  • Injuries caused by larvae migration
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Persistent cough
  • Respiratory insufficiency
  • Intolerance of exercise
  • Anemia
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Bruising
  • Neurological problems
  • Weight loss
  • Death

The parasite is native to Europe, but it is expanding to other countries and regions. If a dog happens to eat a snail infected with this parasite, the larvae in their L3 stage will travel to the heart. Specifically, it will go to the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery where they will then complete their development into adulthood. Mature females will lay eggs which can travel through the bloodstream, reach pulmonary capillaries and then hatch L1 larvae in the alveoli of the lungs. When the dog coughs or sneezes, the larvae reach the mouth and are swallowed. They go through the digestive system and are then excreted. From then, the larvae can be eaten by snails or slugs, where they develop back into the L3 stage and the cycle can be repeated.

Sometimes, the dog is infested with this parasite by eating other animals which have eaten a slug or snail. These may include frogs, lizards or mice. As we have seen the symptoms of this parasitosis are varied and non-specific, so a veterinarian must provide a diagnosis. Larvae can be observed in the feces, but this can provide a false negative as the larvae may not appear intermittently.

Due to the serious potential consequences of this parasitic disease, it is essential to maintain good deworming routines in order to prevent them. Speak to your veterinarian if you have not already discussed this with them. Although there are different types of deworming schedules, specialists recommend monthly deworming for dogs, especially those with access to open areas as snails, ticks, fleas and many other parasite vectors can lurk in these areas. There are also double deworming options which can be used to treat internal and external parasites with a single tablet. Because we love our animals and want to protect them, deworming is an important factor.

What Happens if My Dog Eats a Snail? - Disease transmitted to dogs from snails: angiostrongylosis

Disease transmitted to dogs from snails: crenosomiasis

This disease, also known as verminous pneumonia, is caused by the nematode Crenosoma vulpis. This affects the dog's lungs and can come from ingested molluscs such as snails. What happens when a dog eats a snail or slug infested with this parasite larvae is similar to what happens if they ingest Angiostrongylus vasorum, but with the main difference being that these parasites go to the bronchi and bronchioles in the lungs. In some cases, it can also go to the trachea. The adult females deposit their eggs in these places which develop into L1 larvae.

Similar to the previous case, through coughing, sneezing or expectoration, these larvae can end up in the digestive system and stool of dogs. This can then be ingested by the snails and continue their development into L3 larvae. If a dog ingests a snail or contaminated slug, the larvae will pass from the intestine to the lungs through the bloodstream in about three weeks. They will complete their cycle in the lungs and adults can live up to 10 months.

Due to the location of the parasite, the clinical signs are those which affect breathing, manifesting in coughing or intolerance to exercise. As before, many dogs may remain asymptomatic. This disease usually presents in rural areas near cattle as they are the most affected. Although it is not usually a life threatening condition, it is still necessary to prevent it through adequate deworming. It should be noted that the disease is not zoonotic and, therefore, cannot be transmitted to humans.

General guidelines for preventing dogs eating snails

While the probability of your dog getting a parasitical infestation from eating snails depends on various factors, it is still important to know the risks. To minimize these risks, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Educate your dog through obedience training so that they do not eat anything they find outside the home.
  • If your dog has access to an area with an abundance of snails or slugs, you will need to keep an out for infestations and remove them quickly.
  • Be careful if you live somewhere with a high fox population as these animals can act as reservoirs for the parasites.
  • The mucus traces left by snails as they move along the ground can also be a source of contagion, so wash them away when you spot them.
  • Given the difficulty of spotting the symptoms of roundworm infestation, closely follow your veterinarian's advice on deworming.
  • Take your dog to the vet if you spot any symptoms.
  • Use safe snail and slug traps in the garden which will not harm your dog.
What Happens if My Dog Eats a Snail? - General guidelines for preventing dogs eating snails

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What Happens if My Dog Eats a Snail?, we recommend you visit our Parasitic diseases category.

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