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What happens if my dog touches a slug?

Quick answers

If your dog touches, licks, eats or otherwise comes into contact with a slug, there are a few potential health risks to be aware of:

  • Slugs can carry parasites like lungworm and tapeworms that can infect dogs if ingested.
  • Some slugs and snails can transmit meningoencephalitis, a rare but very serious infection.
  • Slugs produce slime that contains lectins, which may cause nausea or vomiting if licked or ingested.
  • Garden slugs and snails often ingest pesticides, so toxin poisoning is possible if eaten.

In most cases, brief contact with slug slime on your dog’s skin or fur is not a cause for concern. However, any ingestion should be avoided, and contact with venomous/toxic slug species requires immediate veterinary care. Monitor for symptoms like vomiting, lethargy or neurological issues. Overall, try to discourage dogs from mouthing or ingesting slugs when possible.

Is slug slime toxic or dangerous?

Slugs and snails produce slime that helps them move and adhere to surfaces. This mucus is not toxic but does contain lectins, which are sugar-binding proteins. If a large amount of slug slime is ingested, the lectins may cause nausea, vomiting or other gastrointestinal upset in dogs. The slime itself is not poisonous though.

Brief contact with slug slime on your dog’s coat or paws is not dangerous. However, ingestion or extensive contact should be avoided, especially with species like the banana slug that produce copious amounts of mucus. Any evidence of illness after exposure warrants a trip to the veterinarian.

Parasites that can infect dogs

Some of the most common parasites carried by slugs and snails that pose a risk to canine health include:


Lungworm, caused by the Angiostrongylus vasorum parasite, infects dogs through ingestion of infected slugs and snails. It can cause serious respiratory disease, bleeding disorders and even heart failure if left untreated. Slugs ingest the larvae by eating the feces of infected animals, making them carriers.


The common dog tapeworm is transmitted by fleas but can also be acquired through ingesting infected slugs/snails. Tapeworm segments may be visible in your dog’s feces or around their anus. Mild cases cause few signs but a heavy worm burden can result in digestive issues and weight loss.

Rat lungworm

Rat lungworm parasites can infect slugs/snails as intermediate hosts, then spread to dogs through accidental ingestion. The worm damages lung tissue and the brain if it migrates there, causing severe neurological disease. Thankfully this is rare but very dangerous.

Meningoencephalitis from slugs/snails

Some slug and snail species including the brown garden snail (Cornu aspersum) may carry the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which causes meningoencephalitis. This is a rare but extremely serious infection affecting the brain and spinal cord. Dogs can become infected by purposefully or accidentally eating contaminated slugs and snails.

Signs of slug/snail-transmitted meningoencephalitis include:

  • Fever
  • Head tilt
  • Muscle tremors
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Coma

This infection is often fatal if not treated urgently, so dogs showing these neurological signs after potential slug/snail exposure should receive rapid veterinary care. Prompt treatment with corticosteroids, anticonvulsants and supportive care boosts chances for recovery.

Pesticide poisoning

Many slugs and snails, especially those found in gardens/yards, ingest tiny amounts of pesticide residue from the environment. If your dog deliberately or accidentally eats one of these gastropods, they are also ingesting any pesticides present.

Dog-safe natural slug killers like diatomaceous earth are very unlikely to cause poisoning. However, metaldehyde and other common chemical pesticides may accumulate in the slug to dangerous levels for dogs. Metallic pellet slug baits are also a hazard for curious canines.

Signs of pesticide poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Prompt veterinary treatment is vital for survival and recovery. Bring a sample of the slug bait or pesticide product with you if possible. Decontamination and medications to reduce absorption may be used.

Venomous slugs and snails

While most slugs and snails pose little toxic threat directly, some species are venomous and can inject toxins for defense. These include:

  • Cone snails
  • Blue-ringed octopus
  • Sea hares
  • Blue dragon sea slugs

Being bitten or stung by any venomous marine mollusk requires immediate emergency veterinary care. Their venom contains neurotoxins that can rapidly cause paralysis, respiratory failure and death without appropriate treatment.

Dogs should obviously be prevented from interacting with these dangerous slug and snail species in the first place. But if envenomation occurs, seek help right away. Prompt venom extraction, medications and supportive critical care give the best chance for recovery.

Symptoms of illness after slug/snail contact

Some signs your dog may show if sickened after contact with slugs and snails include:

  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Repeated swallowing motions
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle tremors or seizures
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Lethargy
  • Head tilt
  • Circling
  • Paralysis
  • Coma

Any signs of illness after possible slug/snail exposure should prompt an immediate trip to the veterinarian, especially neurological symptoms. Timely treatment is vital for the best outcome, as slug/snail-transmitted parasites and toxins can rapidly endanger your dog’s health without quick medical intervention.


If your dog becomes ill after contact with slugs/snails, the veterinarian will utilize a variety of diagnostic tests to determine the cause, including:

  • Physical exam – Checking for symptoms like fever, respiratory distress, neurological deficits.
  • Blood tests – Evaluate oxygen levels, electrolyte imbalances, liver/kidney function.
  • Fecal exam – Check for lungworm larvae or tapeworm segments.
  • Endoscopy – Examine the esophagus and stomach directly.
  • MRI/CT – Imaging for signs of meningoencephalitis.
  • CSF analysis – sampling cerebrospinal fluid to assess brain infection.

Based on the findings, appropriate treatment can be initiated. In severe cases, hospitalization in intensive care may be required to stabilize your dog and monitor progress closely.


Treatment options for dogs sickened after slug/snail exposure include:

  • Anthelmintics – Deworming medications to kill lungworms, tapeworms, rat lungworms.
  • Antibiotics – Treat secondary infections and sepsis.
  • Anti-inflammatories – Corticosteroids to reduce meningoencephalitis swelling.
  • Anticonvulsants – Control seizures from toxins/brain inflammation.
  • IV fluids – Correct dehydration and boost blood pressure.
  • Emergency surgery – May be needed to remove obstructions or drain accumulations.

Hospitalization for close monitoring and intensive care support is required in severe cases. With aggressive treatment, dogs have a fair to good long-term prognosis depending on the severity of toxic effects.


You can help prevent hazardous slug/snail encounters by:

  • Using pet-safe slug bait products or barriers in your yard.
  • Keeping your dog leashed and avoiding areas with slugs/snails on walks.
  • Avoiding access to slugs/snails in the garden.
  • Picking up dog toys, bones, bowls etc. that slugs/snails could crawl on.
  • Training your dog to “leave it” and “drop it” if they start mouthing a slug or snail.
  • Washing your dog’s paws/belly after walks if slugs/snails are present.

While brief contact with slug slime is not hazardous, ingestion of slugs and snails can potentially expose dogs to parasites, toxins and poisons. Take sensible precautions to limit your dog’s exposure and contact your vet if any signs of illness develop after interactions with slugs or snails.


In most cases, brief skin contact with harmless slug slime will not harm your dog. However, ingestion or extensive mucus exposure is risky due to parasites, toxins, and pesticides that slugs and snails may harbor. Lungworms, tapeworms, rat lungworm, meningoencephalitis and poisoning are potential concerns requiring prompt veterinary care.

Use common sense precautions to limit your dog’s access and train them to avoid eating slugs and snails. Seek immediate medical treatment if vomiting, neurological issues or other symptoms develop after exposure. With aggressive supportive care, dogs have a fair to good prognosis. Prevention is the best approach to keep your dog safe and healthy.