Q & A: Pigeon hunter

Q: For some reason my dog catches pigeons (and not other birds). Should I do something to stop him from doing it? Is it bad for him?

A: Pigeons are the easier birds to catch, which is probably why your dog goes for them and not the other birds. Birds, along with other reptiles and small mammals, are paratenic hosts (carriers) for the worm called Spirocerca lupi. When a dog eats one of these hosts, he can get infected with the larva of this worm. The larva then migrates to the oesophagus where it forms a nodule.

This nodule can cause the dog to show various signs, the most common being regurgitation, vomiting, coughing and salivating, but sometimes they do not show any signs until the nodule is very large. The nodule can also transform into cancer over time. So ideally you should not let the dog eat the birds that he catches, and I would recommend talking to your vet regarding treatment for Spirocerca, as the treatment differs from the normal deworming programmes that are used.

Dr Vanessa McClure, veterinarian