It seems like dogs love all things gross, slimy, or stinky, so it’s no surprise slugs can find their way onto your dog’s radar — and occasionally in their mouth. So what should you do if your dog decides to give these slimy gastropods a nibble? Are they really dangerous? Read on to find out.
Slugs are gastropods with a thick coating of mucus that protects them from predators and rough surfaces. This unpleasant-tasting mucus usually serves as a deterrent to canines, but not always.
More often than not, dogs eat these garden pests by mistake. If you have dog food bowls outside, you may have seen a carnivorous species of these slimy buggers grazing on your pet’s kibble. While chowing down on their dinner, your pup may accidentally eat a slug without realizing it. Unfortunately, it isn't always easy to know if your dog has eaten a slug, but there are some signs that can indicate your pup has accidentally ingested one.
Besides an upset tummy, eating slugs can cause dogs to contract lungworm, a potentially deadly condition if left untreated. Lungworm is a parasite that attacks the blood vessels in the heart and lungs. Snails contract lungworm by coming into contact with rat droppings and further transmit it by leaving a slime trail on food surfaces.
Dogs can contract lungworm just by licking an infected snail. What’s more, humans can also catch this disease. Thankfully, lungworm is very easy to treat if caught early. Treatment of the early stages of lungworm just requires an anti-parasitic. However, if left untreated, lungworm can cause permanent damage to the blood vessels in and around the lungs.
The slug diet is another factor to consider when discussing the dangers of eating slugs. Slugs feast upon all sorts of gross, rotting stuff, like vegetables and even roadkill carcasses, so there is no telling what all your dog is ingesting besides slug guts. Pets may get sick with food poisoning or other nasty microscopic buggers like salmonella from eating them.
Poisoning from slug bait is another danger when dogs eat these gross gastropods, and sadly, it’s tough to tell what the slug has ingested before your dog ingests the snail. Dogs can become fatally ill from ingesting poison-laden slugs without immediate veterinary care. Symptoms of slug bait poisoning include seizures, drooling, confusion, sensitivity to external stimuli, and unusual breathing and heart rhythm.
Some pet parents wonder if it is still dangerous if a dog just licks a slug. Unfortunately, dogs can contract the same bacteria and parasites just by licking a slug. You should follow the same protocol for slug-licking as you would if your dog ate a slug whole.
The first thing you should do if you suspect your dog has eaten a slug is to wash their mouth out and brush their teeth. After this, seek immediate veterinary care. Your vet may want to run tests and start your dog on a dewormer. Blood tests can tell your vet if your dog has ingested a slug that has recently eaten slug pellets.
Let your vet know if your dog frequently eats slugs because they may need to put them on a parasite preventative medication just in case. After the vet visit, observe your pup for signs of illness and take them back immediately if they act unusually.