Spirocercosis is a disease occurring predominantly in Canidae, caused by the nematode Spirocerca lupi. Typical clinical signs are regurgitation, vomiting and dyspnoea. The life-cycle involves an intermediate (coprophagous beetle) and a variety of paratenic hosts. Larvae follow a specific migratory route, penetrating the gastric mucosa of the host, migrating along arteries, maturing in the thoracic aorta before eventually moving to the caudal oesophagus. Here the worm lives in nodules and passes larvated eggs which can be detected using zinc sulphate faecal flotation. Histologically, the mature oesophageal nodule is composed mostly of actively dividing fibroblasts.
Spirocerca lupi-associated oesophageal sarcomas may occur and damage to the aorta results in aneurysms. A pathognomonic lesion for spirocercosis is spondylitis of the thoracic vertebrae. Primary radiological lesions include an oesophageal mass, usually in the terminal oesophagus, spondylitis, and undulation of the aortic border. Contrast radiography and computed tomography are helpful additional emerging modalities. Oesophageal endoscopy has a greater diagnostic sensitivity than radiography. Endoscopic biopsies are not sensitive for detecting neoplastic transformation. Doramectin is the current drug of choice, effectively killing adult worms and decreasing egg shedding. Early diagnosis of infection is still a challenge and to date no ideal regimen for prophylaxis has been published.