What Happens If A Dog Eats A Slug? Slime Up Here To Find Out!

It’s normal to come across a slug or snail in your garden, and while the idea of eating a slug would never cross your mind even in your wildest dreams, that may not be the same case for man’s four-legged best friend.

Have you seen the things they’ve been known to put in their mouths?

So, what happens if a dog eats a slug or snail? Is there a risk of infection? Could it possibly result in a fatal situation?

Unsightly and nauseatingly slimy, slugs can actually be harmful to dogs when ingested. That’s because they can carry in them a parasite called lungworm that is capable of causing an infection and respiratory disease in canines. Left untreated, this can become severe.

If your dog has eaten a slug, there is a high possibility that the slug is a host to lungworm larvae- which can subsequently put your pooch at risk of sickness.

However if a dog eats slugs and snails that do not have the lungworm larvae in them, it would be unlikely that anything bad would happen as garden slugs are not inherently toxic to dogs.

This may not be the case when it comes to sea slugs, as certain varieties are highly toxic to dogs and can kill them when ingested or even touched!

But Why Would A Dog Eat A Disgusting, Slimy Critter In The First Place…?

What happens if a dog eats a slug

Why would a dog eat vitamin tablets? Cat lysine treats?? Cream of mushroom soup?!

Sometimes, there isn’t a clear logical answer for the things that dogs tend to do. Sometimes, it’s simply an unfortunate combination of curiosity, and stupidity.

The same applies for dogs and slugs. In the majority of cases, dogs may eat slugs accidentally out of curiosity and not because they taste like a yummy dog treat.

The reality is that the slimy nature of a slug should in no way be appealing to your fur baby’s palate. In truth, slugs have a foul taste- a defense mechanism that helps to keep them from becoming the next meal of an interested predator.

Unfortunately, the slime trail left behind by slugs gives off an unique stench that may be interesting to some canines. In such cases, the dog may be tempted to lick the trail- and have a taste of the critter that made it as well.

Also, if you live in an area that frequently has puddles of water or is vegetative and rains a lot, there is a high chance that these slimy critters will be lurking in your garden.

In these settings, it is easy to imagine that your dog may chew on a toy that has a slug sitting on its underside. Chomp, chomp, and plop- slug down the gullet!

It would also conceivably be quite easy for your fur baby to accidentally swallow a slug when drinking from a puddle of water or a water bowl that just so happens to be holding one of these creatures.

Will My Dog Get Sick From Eating A Slug?

If your dog ate a slug accidentally, one (or both) of two nasty things can occur:

  1. A non-toxic slug (with no lungworm larvae) and its slime can upset your pup’s digestive system, causing unwanted effects such as diarrhea and/or vomiting.
  2. In the worst-case scenario, the slug may be a host to lungworm larvae, resulting in possible lungworm infection that could turn fatal if not treated properly.

Even though dogs will rarely go out looking specifically for slugs to munch on, you can never be too sure what they are eating at any given moment- especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors.

That’s quite a scary proposition taking into consideration that the lungworm parasite (among others) be passed to your dog quite readily just through eating the plants or drinking the water that the slug was sitting in.

Additionally, eating animal feces, licking slug trails, or even sniffing the parasite up their nose are all potential ways for your dog to catch a lungworm infection.

As if that’s not enough, it’s well-known that slugs feast on rotten food. If your dog feels excited about the idea of trying slug for lunch, they may interrupt the creature as it enjoys its meal.

In the process of doing so, they may also consume some rotten fruit or meat. It goes without saying that eating rotten foods is not a good thing for a dog’s digestive tract and overall health.

Lastly, there is also the problem of slug repellent. May homeowners use repellents to prevent slugs from coming into their homes or gardens. Such repellent products are also used in public or communal areas.

If your dog eats a gastropod along with the surrounding slug killer, or consumes a slug that has already died as a result of the repellent, the pup is more likely to suffer negative effects and become ill as well.

What Are The Symptoms Of Lungworms In Dogs?

Black brown white Spaniel dog sitting

If your dog decides to snack on a slug while outside, you more than likely would be none the wiser unless you spotted the slime on their fur or around the mouth.

That means that it is quite possible for your dog to catch a lungworm infection without your immediate knowledge, in which case you will only become aware of the infection when the symptoms begin to show.

Therefore, it is extremely important to know the signs of lungworm infection- especially if you know that your garden is home to plenty of slugs and snails.

Surprisingly, some kinds of dogs are more predisposed to contracting lungworm than others. The most commonly affected are younger dogs and puppies, though this may also be because they are naturally curious.

Dogs of the Spaniel breed are also more prone to lungworm infections, even though it’s not understood why.

In the case of a lungworm infection, here are some of the main symptoms that your four-legged buddy may show:

  • Coughing that does not resolve with antibiotics
  • Sneezing that doesn’t also go away with antibiotics
  • Lethargy, weakness, and becoming tired easily
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Wheezing and panting
  • Coughing up blood
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Nosebleeds
  • Loss of appetite and vomiting
  • Red eyes

A dog may show only one or a few of these signs, which frankly can be common to other diseases as well. For this reason, it is often tricky to determine conclusively at home whether the pooch has a lungworm infection.

That’s why it’s highly recommended that you take your dog to a vet as soon as you can so that they can be checked to determine the exact health issue is causing the symptoms.

Side Note! What Really Is Lungworm?

Dog owners lungworm warning sign

Scientifically known as Angiostrongylus Vasorum, lungworms are parasites that use snails and slugs as their host. After a period, they are then ready to grow into other life stages by inhabiting mammals such as dogs, foxes, and other canids.

A lungworm infection occurs when a dog ingests a snail or slug that hosts lungworm larvae, after which the parasite has the chance to grow into maturity while in the body of the dog.

The lifecycle of a lungworm is usually as follows:

  1. A slug eats lungworm larvae while feeding on feces on the ground, thereby becoming a host to the larvae.
  2. A dog eats/licks a slug (or its slime trail) and ingests the larvae in the process. Lungworm larvae might also find their way into a dog’s body when the dog drinks from a puddle, chews on a toy that had been crawled on by a slug, or eats the feces of an infected dog.
  3. The larvae, once in the dog’s gut, resume growing and eventually crawl their way to the respiratory system of the dog.
  4. Upon reaching maturity the lungworm lays eggs, which then hatch and create an infestation in your dog’s body. The effect of such an infestation is internal bleeding and hemorrhaging in the dog’s gut, lungs, liver, eyes, and spine.
  5. Finally, your dog will pass out some of the worms and their eggs through feces, putting more canids at risk of infection.

Even though eating a slug can cause lungworm infection in a dog, the disease is not contagious and cannot be passed from one dog to another through saliva or touch.

These parasites are only hosted by snails, slugs, and sometimes frogs, and the only way for them to get into your dog is through ingestion of the host.

How Is Lungworm Treated?

If you take your dog to a vet and it is diagnosed with a lungworm infection, there is no need to panic! Effective treatments are readily available. Your dog should recover quickly and easily as long as the infection was found at a sufficiently early stage.

Treatment does not involve surgery. Rather, the vet will use specific anti-parasitic medicine that will kill the lungworm present in your pooch. The medicine may need to be taken for weeks or even months in order to flush out the parasites completely.

Depending on the situation, the vet can also prescribe medications such as nebulizers or steroids to reduce inflammation and respiratory distress.

If the dog unfortunately comes down with a serious case and develops severe respiratory illness symptoms, the vet may recommend hospitalization for constant monitoring and oxygen support.

Can The Slime From Slugs Harm My Dog As Well?

You may think that the slime produced by slugs does not contain lungworm larvae in it, but that unfortunately does not seem to be the case. It has been shown that the larvae also exist in the slime left behind by slugs as they move, even if it is in smaller numbers.

What this means is that your dog does not have to eat an entire slug to be at risk of ending up with a lungworm infection.

In light of this knowledge, if you ever see your pooch being curious about a moving slug or the slime that it leaves behind, you should always discourage it from sniffing or licking either.

What Do You Do If Your Dog Licks A Slug (Or Snail)?

Dog curious looking at snail

Rather than waiting to see lungworm symptoms in your dog to confirm that they have eaten a slug, it is much more beneficial to know that it did as soon as possible. The main signs to look out for are:

  • A slug trail that stops mysteriously in an area that your dog is currently located
  • Slime around its mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy and listlessness
  • Licking of lips as if trying to get rid of a foul taste

If you suspect or have discovered evidence of your dog eating or licking a slug, the first thing you should do is to flush out your dog’s mouth with clean water the best you can

Keep in mind that your pooch will be resistant as they won’t enjoy this experience one iota. You can also brush its teeth with a cloth, toothbrush or finger brush to get rid of any remnants of the slime.

Consult this extensive article on the many ways to clean a dog’s mouth thoroughly.

Even though cleaning your dog’s mouth will help them feel more comfortable, it is not a substitute for medical attention or professional advice.

In that light, it’s always recommended that you take your dog to a vet clinic for an examination and treatment. Remember that acting promptly can greatly increase the chances of minimizing adverse effects for your pet.

How To Stop My Dog From Eating Slugs: 4 Effective Methods

Labrador retriever looking at snail on the other side of the glass.

Vets can do a lot of amazing things to save dogs that are diagnosed early enough from a variety of predicaments, but it’s always better if you can avoid any dangerous situation altogether.

In light of that, here are some of the most effective ways of preventing your dog from eating slugs:

Master The “Leave It!” Command

If you ever see your dog approach a slug with the intention of inspecting it a bit more closely, you should make it clear to them that slugs are not good and that they should leave it well alone.

This can be achieved very effectively through the “leave it” command.

To teach your dog the “leave it” command, place a treat on the floor. Make sure that it is a treat that your dog likes- but not its favorite treat.

Once your dog understands to leave the treat on the floor, reward it then with its favorite treat. Do not let your dog have the treat on the floor and remove it from the area.

Use A Pet-Safe Slug And Snail Bait

The majority of snail and slug baits contain a toxic chemical called metaldehyde that kills the gastropods. The problem with using metaldehyde is that it is highly toxic to dogs as well! Therefore, if you are planning on using a slug bait, always make sure that it is safe for pets.

You can also use natural deterrents to prevent slugs from coming into your house or garden. The most effective deterrents of this type are:

  • Table salt
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Chopped mint, rosemary, or thyme
  • Used coffee grounds

Don’t Leave Any Dog Toys Outside

When your dog is done playing with its toys, don’t leave them outside. This is especially crucial at night when the atmosphere becomes more moist and slugs become more active. Active slugs have a tendency to crawl over anything that they come across in their way!

If you accidentally leave toys outside, clean and disinfect them before allowing your dog to play with them.

Prevent Your Dog From Eating Wild Plants, Drinking From Puddles, Or Eating Poop!

You will more likely come across slugs in an area that has puddles, or that is dense with vegetation and rich in moisture. If you ever see your dog drinking from a puddle or eating grass in areas that are likely inhabited by slugs, always discourage them before it’s too late.

It goes without saying that you have to be a responsible pet owner to stop your dog from eating slugs. Clear your garden of feces, whether from their own dog or from other animals.

It also helps a lot if you can regularly inspect your home to ensure that you don’t have a snail and slug infestation.

How Do You Remove Slug Slime From A Dog’s Fur?

Brushing the back of Dalmatian dog

If your canine comes into contact with a slug, there is a high chance that they will end up with a touch of slime on their fur. To remove the slime from their fur, you can use one of the following solutions:

Solution 1: Wipe the slime off using a clean, dry cloth.

Solution 2: Use distilled white vinegar, salt, olive oil, or detergent to break up the slime and wipe it off the dog’s coat.

Solution 3: Brush out the dried-up slime.

Solution 4: If all else fails, give your pup a quick fur trim around the affected area.

When trying to remove slime from your dog’s fur, don’t bathe it until you have completely removed the slime using the above methods. Bathing will expand the slime and make it stickier, which can make it harder to clean as a result.

In Summary

So, what happens if a dog eats a slug?

The biggest concern when a dog consumes a slug is that it may have also taken in lungworm larvae in the process. Lungworm can be very harmful to dogs and can cause infection, internal bleeding, and respiratory issues.

Common signs of lungworm infection include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, weakness, rapid breathing, wheezing, bleeding from mouth and nose, and loss of appetite. If it is allowed to progress without treatment, it can become fatal.

Luckily, lungworm is highly treatable by a trained vet with the use of anti-parasitic medications and steroids. Dogs will usually make a full recovery very quickly once medication has been administered.

If your dog has (or you suspect that it has) eaten a slug or snail, take it immediately to the vet for a checkup! Though the slug may be one of the few that is not a host to lungworm, it’s definitely better not to take any chances.

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