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Dogs – Spirocerca Lupi ("Park Worm")







What is Spirocerca lupi?

Spirocerca lupi, also known as the esophageal worm or commonly in Israel as "park worm," are bright red worms ranging in size from 4 to 7 cm long. They generally are located within nodules in the esophageal, gastric, or aortic walls. This worm can prove fatal in dogs. The parasite was introduced to Israel via the stool of migrating birds and was first diagnosed in the area of the Safari Park in Ramat Gan. It then spread throughout the country, infecting thousands of dogs and causing suffering and death for dozens of them. Over the past year, there has been a rise in the number of occurrences of this disease.


Transmission of the disease

The disease is spread via infected dung beetles. The dogs eat the infected dung beetles in the feces or leftover food in which the beetle lives. Such organic materials are found throughout the country, generally in grassy areas such as parks and public gardens. Dogs can also be infected if they eat an animal that has eaten an infected dung beetle, for example: bird, mouse, lizard, and so on.


Progression of the disease

Spirocerca lupi larvae live in the body of infected dung beetles. As a dog ingests the infected dung beetle (or a mouse or bird who has eaten a dung beetle), the larvae are released in the dog’s stomach. From there, larvae travel through the stomach lining and the aorta to the esophagus, where they mature and lay eggs. The eggs are then secreted in the dog's feces and eaten by the dung beetle. Thus the infectious circle is spread. A mature worm can penetrate the trachea, lungs, stomach, kidneys, muscle sheath, and under the skin.


Damage and symptoms of the disease

Larvae damage: In their travels, larvae can damage blood vessels and tissue, which often results in internal bleeding.

Worm damage: The worms can cause aorta and spinal column injury. Once encysted, the worm can cause various forms of tumors.

Symptoms of the disease can vary, if there are symptoms at all. Signs can include cough, difficulty breathing, salivation, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, or even sudden death resulting from massive internal bleeding.



Treatment by injection with Ivomec or Dormectin is given after diagnosis of infection to destroy the larvae or mature worms in the body of the dog. However, diagnosis is usually made too late, during a postmortem examination.


The importance of PREVENTION for every dog:

Dogs are exposed to Spirocerca lupi infection daily, while walking in parks, public gardens, grassy areas, open fields and even private gardens. Because of the great danger of infection and the fast spread of the worm throughout the country, it is important to take preventive action. In order to reduce the spread of the disease, you should:

  • Have your dogs vaccinated by your veterinarian every 3 months with Ivomec or Dormectin to kill any parasites that might be in the system before they can cause damage.

  • Walk your dogs with a muzzle (especially in park areas), if they tend to eat everything.

  • Don’t allow your dogs to wander freely without a leash.

  • Prevent your dogs from eating stool or grass (where the dung beetles may be present).

  • Collect your dogs' stool in public areas and throw it into garbage cans, thus helping to reduce the number of infected animals.

Note: The Spirocerca lupi parasite is NOT contagious to humans.



Based on Leaflet #2, Israel Companion Animals Veterinary Association, 2000.