Giant. Kidney. Worm.

I tried to think of a more clever title, but I really can’t. I mean, what is better than straight up GIANT. KIDNEY. WORMS.?! Otherwise known as Dioctophyme renale. Or D. Renale. Or, y’know, just stick with GIANT. KIDNEY. WORMS.

I don’t even know what to say. Giant Kidney Worms are like the Holy Grail of veterinary medicine, depending who you talk to. They’re not overly common, and they’re the stuff legends are made of.

You know what? I’m just going to go straight to the video from OVC.

So, how awesome is that?! THE MOST AWESOME!

Most often found INCIDENTLY when someone is just doing a routine spay, and they think they’ve grabbed a loop of small intestine, but then it has a FACE! WOAH! I’m totally serious. It was a complete fluke that we found them in Rosie, the dog featured in that video. She was a teaching dog getting a routine checkup and BAM! There be worms!

These worms aren’t in Newfoundland, so I figured I’d never be so lucky. BUT THEN!

So this dog comes in to be neutered. Owner makes mention of occasional red urine. So I request a urinalysis. Long story short. . . WORM EGGS! Giant kidney worm eggs are very distinct, so we knew what we had here and I WAS OVER THE MOON! Seriously. I can’t even describe how excited I was!

Had some talks with the owners, mentally prepared myself for the SURGERY OF MY CAREER, got an assistant surgeon who was just about as ridiculously excited as I was, and we were off to the races!

Here’s a run down of how it went down: We began exploring the abdomen, and having our minds BLOWN by the size of the kidney the worms were housed in (the right kidney). . . and as I was feeling around that very large kidney, BAM! WORM! I squealed, I did a little dance, my life was MADE!

We ended up finding 2 live worms free in the abdomen, and 1 dead one. We removed the one kidney, which was potentially the most stressful thing of life… the capsule around the kidney was fused right to the vena cava (major vessel, do not want to cut..) !!!! Tricksy stuff, but we pulled it off! There were SEVEN worms in the kidney! AMAZING!

The dog is best kind now, well and wormy free! And I have a lovely giant kidney worm in a wine bottle in my kitchen. Is some pretty!

How pretty is this?! This is a regular sized bottle, and a giant sized worm!

Very likely the first time ever giant kidney worms have been removed in Newfoundland. Potentially the one and only time.  I’m the envy  of many of my classmates, and many of my colleagues in general. The only downside? I’m only 2 years into my career . . . HOW DO I TOP THIS?!

About dottiemaggie

A veterinarian living and working in St John's, Newfoundland. I love my job, and I love my home. Professionally I am passionate about critical care and client education. Away from work I am passionate about enjoying life, spending time with friends, enjoying hobbies of all sorts, and exploring this wonderful province I call home.
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47 Responses to Giant. Kidney. Worm.

  1. JaniceP says:

    I’m torn between being incredibly impressed and giving off a squeal of girlish disgust. Worms typically gross me out, but dang that’s a pretty colour!

  2. Samantha says:

    What a gorgeous velvety red!
    Now, that being said…EW GAWD! Kidney WORMS!?
    Off to read up and live my life in terror that my dogs will somehow get kidney..KIDNEY..worms.

  3. omawarisan says:

    I’m going to type this fast because I’m a little nauseous and think I need to go into the other room and yell into my toilet:

    Congratulations on your rare find, and kudos to you for having the confidence in your abilities to handle a very rare surgery so early in your career!

    I’m going to go urge now.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      haha, so should I not include the photos of The Jolie enjoying the bottle of worms or the bottle of fetus I have in my kitchen? ;D

      I’m generally not one to back down from a challenge at work.. tomorrow I have an appointment with a chicken!

  4. Oh, my…way to suck us in, Maggie! Really glad I finished my dinner…can we have a collective EWWWW from the crowd?

    I’ve heard of people taking their work home with them, but that’s ridiculous!

    Glad the pooch is okay, though…


  5. Kate says:

    That is SO GROSS! I’m glad there are vets and doctors like you…because if it was up to people like me, well everyone would probably die. Good on you!

    • dottiemaggie says:

      haha, well, I think I’m in the right profession for sure 😉 and it’s a good thing there’s people like you to be teachers, because I’d end up in jail for throwing things at children. . . 😉

  6. Betty says:

    what. the. fuuuddge?

  7. Love that I have those babies sitting on my TV stand.

  8. Kat says:

    Omg… That is the grossest, yet coolest thing ever. 😀

  9. Audubon Ron says:

    OHH Maggie!! YUCK!!! Oh, I can’t look at that.

  10. linlah says:

    If the worm in the tequilla were that big would you, wait, no I’ll stop now.

  11. ok.

    we are clearly on two different ends of the spectrum here. WOW. this is so gross. i would run away if i saw this. there are def people in the world who are meant to go into medicine, cus if it was up to me, he’d be dying with those worms.

    but, from my limited knowledge…. isn’t a kidney pretty small?? i mean, how did all thsoe get in there?!?

    • dottiemaggie says:

      LOL! No worries, I’ll look after the worms, you go on with yourself. ;D

      The kidney I took them out of was about 4 times the size of his ‘normal’ kidney. They get in there as baby worms, and grow and destroy. The kidney ends up stretched and basically just a sac containing the worms.

      it was epic.

  12. Susan says:

    I’ll never sleep again.
    Thanks, Dr. Gross Out

  13. Bob M. says:

    PEOPLE CAN GET THESE THINGS TOO? ARE YOU JOKING? Pray tell, how exactly can people get these things? I will bring my pocket microscope with me everywhere, forever. It is only because I haven’t yet figured out how to miniaturize the massive electronics that I don’t haul an electron microscope with me (but give me time). The restaurants won’t like me too much, I’m afraid….

    Seriously though, I had no idea those things existed, let alone can get that big. It is a testament to your dedication and skill that that dog is happy and well now. Best of luck to you, Doc.

  14. Bob M says:

    That’s good to know….I had big plans of vacationing up in your neck of the woods (icebergs, whales, fresh air, lobster (cooked), etc). The last thing I want to bring home is an anaconda-sized pet in my internals….egg-sized or not. There goes fishing, too…I’ll never use live bait again. 😉

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  16. Laura says:

    Congratulations on the successful surgery. It must be really strange to have to remove things that are slithering around under their own power.

    The craziest thing about that OWC video was seeing the dog bouncing around, happy and healthy, just two days after surgery.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Thank you!
      I recently saw my patient for a vaccination appointment, and he’s looking great 🙂 Proof positive that you only need one kidney to get by! Also, good poster childs for the idea of annual check ups with your vet – you never know what might be hiding inside a seemingly normal dog! 😉

  17. Cathy Staley says:

    Im a student at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus .
    It was discovered one of our colony canines was as well infected with Giant Kidney worms.
    Last week Dr. VH with the help of 7 senior Veterinary Tech students performed a nephrectomy as well as a neuter .He did excellent through the whole procedure and has recovered incredibly.
    Students got a first hand look at this rare procedure as well performed their skills as student veterinary technicians .
    His staples were removed today and thus is the end of the giant ugly kidney worms well besides the many photos of students all smiles posing with the ugly worms that is .

    • dottiemaggie says:

      That’s amazing! Very lucky for that group of students 🙂 I was lucky to be a student when Rosie was a teaching dog, but even more lucky to have a case out here in Newfoundland 🙂 Definitely one of the most interesting surgeries you can get a chance to see 🙂

  18. Sara Robinson says:

    I run a rescue in Winnipeg and have recently brought in 4 dogs with kidney worms. One we were unfortunately unable to save in time but we have 3 more to treat. Our vet is amazing however as this is so rare we are having trouble finding the info we need. One of the dogs we rescued today gave birth to 2 pups (in the car on the way to the vet) and is positive for kidney worms, does anyone have any info on the effects if any this parasite can have on her nursing pups?

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Wow! That’s pretty cool that you got so many at once!
      The eggs come out in the urine. The worm shouldn’t be passed through the milk – The worms are either in a kidney, or free in the abdomen; I can’t imagine how they’d get into the mammary glands. I can’t say 100% for sure.
      The only real treatment is to remove the affected kidney, and I wouldn’t want to do that until the pups are weaned, just because I prefer to avoid any major surgery on a nursing bitch.
      You might ask your vet if they can contact a parisitologist at one of the colleges – I called up Dr. Peregrine at OVC when I had my kidney worm case, and discussed things with him.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        I actually just e-mailed him. Thanks so much for the info! The one going in for surgery this week (not a mom) has a pretty advanced case I’ll share photos of the worms if anyone’s interested!

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  20. Ashutosh says:

    I came here searching giant kidney worms.
    Because i think i have them.
    ye me, not my dog…ME!
    i have been having severe kidney pain for the last 4-5 years.I am 20 years old now.
    Whenever i go to a doc with my complaint..they just give me regular urine test.They found nothing and said hey you are absolutely fine…but i wasn’t..Having severe kidney pains on and of for 5 years now.But 2 months back i had some breakfast ,might have overeaten a bit.and then nausea.
    I started puking like mad.Absolutely the worst day of my life.I puked like 7-8 times that day.
    the second time i puked i found something big large blood red in color.I was like 7-8 cm long and 2-3 cm wide.I figured i must be a worm.Just didn’t know which kind.So went to my doc and got checked up again.Got an ultrasound and every thing and nothing came up.
    but the docs a checking me for the regular worms like hook worms and round worms and pin worms.
    I also forgot about it.
    But yesterday i had a blinding pain all night long.Then i searched and put 2 and 2 together.
    i wish i took a snap of that bastard.But no one would believe me..I need help.
    Seriously i need to know which test to take to completely rule out the possibility of Giant kidney worms.I wound’t bother but the pain is really bad and that damn thing was as big as my hand..

    • dottiemaggie says:

      The only diagnostic test for giant kidney worms is to spot the eggs in the urine. Sorry you’ve been going through so much troubles. . . sent you off a quick email, but as a veterinarian I’m not sure how helpful I can be 😦

  21. Ashutosh says:

    Thnx for your advice!

  22. Elizabeth says:

    My Newfoundland was just diagnosed with kidney worms

  23. Tammy says:

    I am about to adopt a 2yr old shepherd/ husky cross that during her spay they removed a male kidney worm and left the kidney that had some damage. They tested the worm and found out it was a male and also found eggs in her urine so they did an ultrasound and removed another worm, it was female and her kidney because of the damage . How do I know if the other kidney hasn’t been affected and can she live a normal life with one kidney ? She is such a happy and playful girl !!! Thanks for all the information !!! 😀 Tammy

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Hi Tammy!

      It is very uncommon for both kidneys to be affected. She can definitely live a very normal life with only 1 kidney! Some animals are born with only one kidney 🙂

      • Tammy says:

        Thanks for the reply !! Well I did adopt her !!! That is great to know !!! I got my facts a little mixed up turns out when they went into do the exploratory to find the female worm ( after they removed the male worm the previous surgery) they could not see it, but there were eggs present in the urine. That is when they decided to removed the right kidney, I guess to prevent any other worms to migrate and mature there and because of the damage done to it . So they told me that a) the worm could still be in there somewhere alive and living off of tissue until it’s life cycle and dies or it is already dead . should I be worried ??

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