- Charter Veterinary Hospital, Roundswell, Barnstaple
- Bridge House Surgery, Pilton, Barnstaple
- St. John's Surgery, Newport, Barnstaple
- Mullacott Veterinary Hospital, Ilfracombe
- South Street Surgery, Braunton
NDJ Article Aug 08: Dog Lungworm and Increasing Threat?
Angiostrongylosis lungworm can potentially be a life threatening condition in dogs. It was initially more of a problem in France but is increasingly seen in dogs in the UK. Not due to our pets taking more continental holidays but by our warming (albeit wet!) climate and the increase in snails and slugs. Foxes certainly eat slugs and snails and foxes are natural hosts for lungworm and spread the parasite around their habitat.
How does my dog become infected?
For dogs to become infected they have to eat infective larvae. The microscopic larvae may be present in slugs, snail and frogs. Some dogs may not eat slugs and snails on purpose, but they may do so by accident – e.g. when a slug or snail is sitting on a bone or toy in the garden. Infective lungworm larvae can be found in the slimy trail the slugs and snail leave behind, and as such could be found in puddles or a whole manner of places. When the dog swallows the microscopic “teenage” larvae, they pass through the wall of the dogs’ intestines and find their way to the dogs’ heart and pulmonary arteries where they become a “adult” worms. The worm is actually sometimes fondly referred to as the “French heart worm” rather than “lungworm”. These adult worms (Angiostrongylus Vasorum) lay eggs, these hatch into baby larvae which wiggle into the airways of the lungs, they are coughed up and swallowed again by the dog, the “baby” larvae pass out in the faeces to be eaten by slugs or snails where they grow into “teenage” larvae and the whole cycle continues…..
What are the symptoms?
When the lungworm gets inside a dog it can result in a number of quite different symptoms, some of which are easily confused with other illnesses. Your dog could present with one or more of the following symptoms if infected with lungworm.
- Breathing problems or coughing, tiring more easily.
- Poor blood clotting leading to excessive bleeding from minor wounds, nose bleeds, bleeding into the eye and anaemia.
- Seizures (fits), spinal pain, weight loss, reduced appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Younger dogs up to 2 years seem to have a higher incidence of this disease, perhaps due to their curiosity, but any breed at any age can be at risk.
Is my cat at risk?
Cats are not infected with angiostrongylus but they are susceptible to their own type of lungworm, which is also carried by snails called Aelurostrongylus abstrusus. Chronic wasting, cough and breathing difficulties may be seen. There are of course a number of other conditions that could present such signs.
The condition is not prevented or treated by routine worming tablets. If angiostrongylus is suspected or prevention desired then your vet can prescribe an innovative, monthly-applied spot-on. This will effectively kill the lungworm responsible for the disease, as well as treat a wide range of other nasties such as fleas, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworm (D. Immitis), mites (fox mange, ear mites and demodicosis) and biting lice.
For more advice on parasites or any pet healthcare issues contact any of the five Charter Veterinary Clinics.
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