Health and Nutrition

Are Slugs and Snails Poisonous to Dogs?

Wet weather often means there are more slugs and snails around, both in our gardens and on our daily dog walks. For many people, this won’t be a problem; however, if your dog has a tendency to eat any critters it sees, you could have a reason to be concerned.


The idea of snails and slugs poisoning dogs is one that many believe to be true, and it is well worth familiarising yourself with the truth behind this belief.


Are slugs and snails poisonous for dogs?

You may be surprised to learn that on their own, snails and slugs are not actually poisonous (though they are known to have a horrible taste!) The problem is that they may carry the larvae of the parasite Angiostrongylus Vasorum. This parasitic worm is the cause behind the potentially fatal infection of lungworm.


Once very rare, cases of lungworm in dogs have risen gradually in the UK over recent years. Unlike many other diseases, it isn’t passed from dog to dog; instead, it can only be contracted by ingesting a slug or snail that hosts the parasite.


In short, this means that the answer to the question of whether slugs and snails are poisonous to dogs is no. However, they are potentially dangerous due to the risk of lungworm. Not all slugs and snails carry the disease, but the devastating side effects of lungworm mean it is advisable to try to prevent your dogs from eating them.

Are slugs dangerous to all dogs?

Younger, more inquisitive dogs and puppies are regarded as being more at risk of lungworm, simply because they are more likely to eat slugs while exploring. However all dogs are equally at risk from lungworm infection. The best advice is therefore that all dogs, regardless of breed or age, should be discouraged from eating slugs and snails.


How can I stop my dog from eating snails and slugs?

If you know your dog has a penchant for a slug snack, you will need to monitor them closely when they are outside. Even if your dog doesn’t actively try to eat slugs when it sees them, it could still accidentally end up swallowing one while out and about. This is more common during the wet, spring months when there are likely to be more slugs and snails around than usual.


It is important to note that not only are slugs and snails dangerous for dogs, the parasites can also live in their slime, making this a potential hazard too.


To limit the possibility of your dog accidentally ingesting a slug or their slime, there are several steps you can take. Firstly, avoid leaving your dog’s toys or bones outside, particularly in the wet weather. Slugs or snails could attach themselves to these and accidentally get swallowed.


Similarly, they could end up on outdoor drinking bowls or in the water, so check these thoroughly before letting your dog drink from them.


As a matter of precaution, you should also take the usual steps to avoid attracting slugs and snails into your garden. This includes ensuring there is no food left outside, watering plants early in the day when slugs are less likely to be around, and having copper in your garden.


What shall I do if my dog has eaten a slug?

Of course, you can’t watch your dog at all times, particularly if they’re enjoying a walk off the lead. Thankfully, because slugs and snails aren’t poisonous to dogs directly, the chances are that your dog will be fine after eating one. However, it is always worth monitoring them just to be on the safe side.


If you know that your dog has eaten a snail or slug, keep an eye out in the following weeks for any of the symptoms associated with lungworm. These include:


  • difficulty breathing
  • weight loss
  • lethargy
  • a cough
  • nose bleeds
  • blood in urine or stools


If your dog shows several of these signs and seems unwell, take them to your vet to be looked over. If diagnosed with lungworm, most dogs can be effectively treated and will make a full recovery, but catching the infection early is essential.


Preventing lungworm in dogs

With cases of lungworm on the rise around the UK, it is advisable to take steps to prevent the disease before your dog even comes into contact with a larvae-carrying slug or snail. Ask your vet about worming treatments that include protection against lungworm, as many standard flea and worming products do not currently cover this.


Olivia Seed

Olivia Seed


A minimalist fashion fan with high interests in the odd print or check. Constantly trying to make my home look like a catalogue; you can find me shopping for cute bedding, candles and other Instagrammable interior accessories.