Lungworm can be devastating.
This is Dolly, a gorgeous rescue dog from Kidderminster-based rescue centre, Happy Staffie. Dolly came in to see us for a routine spay operation and tragically suffered complications during surgery. It was extremely sad for everyone involved and we know for the amazing team at Happy Staffie, it left a huge hole in their hearts. Test results on Dolly's cells revealed that she had a type of pneumonia, with the most probable cause being lungworm. Dolly wasn't showing any obvious signs of the disease, apart from being a little on the thin side, which could have been a result of her life before being rescued. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases with rescue dogs, there is no medical history to show which parasites they have been protected against, if any. We're writing this article to raise awareness of lungworm in the hope that other dogs and their owners or carers don't have to suffer because of it. Many people aren't aware of how easily it can be contracted. Please share this post with your friends and family and help to keep dogs safe.
What is lungworm?
Lungworm is a type of parasitic worm that affects dogs and foxes, transmitted by infected larvae found in slugs and snails. Dogs can contract lungworm by sniffing through the undergrowth and accidentally eating these creatures, or the larvae can be found in puddles, and on their toys, food and drinking bowls, and fur. Dogs cannot pass the disease between each other, lungworm needs a slug or snail host to grow and develop. Once a dog is infected, the adult larvae lives in their heart and the major blood vessels that supply the lungs. Lungworm can be a chronic illness and can sometimes lead to sudden death.
What are the symptoms of lungworm?
The symptoms of lungworm are vague and can be easily confused with other illnesses. One or many of these symptoms could occur including weight loss, breathing difficulties, coughing (especially bringing up blood), lethargy, poor blood clotting/persistent bleeding, general sickness, circling, stomach and back pain, poor appetite, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Lungworm in the UK
Lungworm.co.uk provide a map on their website that shows how many cases of lungworm have been reported in your area. Worcestershire currently shows 186 cases within a 50-mile area.
What to look out for in your dog
If your dog is showing signs of general sickness, poor blood clotting, breathing problems or a change in their behaviour, it's important to take them to see your vet so they can be tested. Diagnosis methods include blood samples for DNA, analysis of stool samples for eggs and larvae, chest X-rays, even bronchoscopy.
Can lungworm be treated?
Dogs can be treated for lungworm and can make a full recovery, the key to successful treatment is acting fast. If your dog has eaten slugs or snails, but isn't showing any symptoms, you should still take them to your vet for a checkup. However, as this parasite can be fatal, it's vital to protect your dog against it.
What can I do to protect my dog against lungworm?
We recommend Advocate, a 'spot on' product which is very effective in the treatment and prevention of fleas and parasites on and in dogs. Advocate is one of the few products available for the treatment of lungworm infections. Talk to your vet about Advocate and how often you should apply it. This is not just a preventative treatment for puppies, your dog should be protected against lungworm throughout their life. You can also try to avoid your dog drinking from puddles, and regularly clean their water bowls and toys if left outside.
If you would like advice from Clent Hills Vets about the prevention and treatment of lungworm, please get in touch.
To read more about lungworm, visit these websites: