Lungworm in dogs


What is lungworm?


Canine lungworm (Angiostrongylus Vasorum) is a parasite that as an adult lives in the chambers of a dog’s heart and the main blood vessels connecting the heart to the lungs.

Dogs can become infected when they eat a slug or snail, or come in contact with their slime trail. This means that it is not only habitual eaters of these slimy creatures that are at risk, but also dogs who have any access to outdoor areas where slugs and snails may have been. Lungworm is not transmissible dog to dog, or, thankfully, dog to human!

Slugs and snails become infected with lungworm from larval stages that are excreted in infected dog’s faeces. Foxes can also carry lungworm, and therefore slugs and snails can become infected from them as well. In a recent survey performed by the Royal Veterinary College it was found 74.4% of foxes in Greater London are now infected with lungworm.


Why does it matter if my dog has lungworm?


Lungworm can cause a number of different symptoms in dogs, and those symptoms can vary in severity. The parasite can cause:

  • Coughing/breathing problems

  • Exercise intolerance

  • Problems with clotting blood (this may present as abnormal bleeding from small cuts/bruising/nosebleeds, but can also lead to bleeding in areas we cannot see, such as the intestines, liver, eyes and spinal cord.)

  • Lethargy

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea

  • Seizures

In very severe cases lungworm can be fatal.

Due to the fact that lungworm can cause bleeding, we require your dog to have had at least one treatment against lungworm before elective surgery (i.e neutering).


How do we prevent lungworm?

The good news is that lungworm can be prevented very easily!

Lungworm can be treated and prevented with a variety of different tablets and spot ons. The frequency of use varies with each product, but it is important to ensure regular application of an effective parasite control to give adequate protection.

The majority of the products that are used for treatment and prevention of lungworm are prescription only products. This means that your dog must be registered with a vet and have been seen by them recently to have the medication given to you. Over the counter flea and worming treatments (i.e products you can buy in a supermarket or online, without a prescription) are unlikely to contain the ingredients needed to protect against lungworm.

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