Here at tails.com, we’re excited for the warmer weather and getting outdoors more with our furry friends. But the warmer weather also brings risks to our dog’s health. Last month we spoke about ticks and Lyme disease, and this month we are focusing on the very concerning threat of lungworm infection.
What is Lungworm?
Lungworm is a parasite of dogs and foxes with the scientific name of Angiostrongylus vasorum. The worm lives inside slugs and snails in the first part of its life cycle. The next stage of the life cycle occurs in dogs, where larvae mature into adult worms and end up living in the lungs and blood vessels surrounding the heart. Here they cause serious harm, as well as damage elsewhere in the body as they migrate through the tissues and into the blood vessels to be carried to the heart and lungs. The larvae cleverly release a chemical to stop the blood from clotting as they enter blood vessels, putting infected dogs at risk of internal bleeding. Left undiagnosed or untreated, lungworm infections can rapidly prove to be fatal.
How does a dog catch lungworm?
Dogs can become infected when they are rooting or sniffing around where slugs and snails occur. This time of year there are lots of slugs and snails on the move in our gardens, parks and countryside, which is why Spring sees a rise in new lungworm infections. Although the greatest risk of infection comes from a dog directly eating a slug or snail accidentally or deliberately, even coming into contact with their slime trails can be a source of infection. Curious puppies and younger dogs are at greatest risk as they are more likely to investigate and eat a slug or snail. But even older dogs can become infected if snails have crawled on their food or water dish for example.
What are the symptoms of lungworm infection?
Once a dog is infected, the symptoms can be very slow and go unnoticed for a long period of time. Vague symptoms that could indicate many other diseases include:
- Poor appetite
More serious infection symptoms include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Internal bleeding
- Sudden death
How do I prevent my dog from catching lungworm?
With lungworm, prevention is definitely better than cure. It is actually very simple to prevent lungworm infection. Normally a liquid medication is applied to the skin on the back of your dog’s neck, although some of these spot on treatments cover fleas and ticks but do not cover our unwanted intruder, Angiostrongylus. There are also some oral medications which treat lungworm in addition to the more common round and tapeworms. The best advice is to seek help from your vet in choosing the best combination of products that works for you and your dog. Then like us and our furry office helpers at tails.com, you can get out and enjoy the improving weather safe in the knowledge your dog is protected from this deadly parasite.