Deadly lungworm infection on the rise in dogs - here are the signs and symptoms

By Rhona Shennan
Wednesday, 22 May, 2019, 11:30
With the infection on the rise in the UK, would you know the warning signs? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Slugs and snails are a usual sight in gardens and fields in the UK - but they could cause deadly problems for your dog.

With cases of lungworm on the rise, here’s everything you need to know about the fatal condition.

Lungworm is a parasite. Its scientific name is angiostrongylus vasorum. It is carried by slugs and snails in their larvae and can also be left behind in their trails.

Lungworms make their home in the chambers of the dogs heart and in the artery that connects the heart to the lungs. They get their name by primarily causing lung related problems.

How is it transmitted?

Dogs can contract lungworm by eating larvae that contain the parasite. This can happen when dogs consume infected slugs and snails.

The larvae can survive for some time off the slug host, so lungworm can also be contracted when a dog comes into contact with something that is covered with slime from the snails.

This can be from toys that have been left in the garden, a water bowl or even puddles that slugs and snails might have contaminated.

While the infection cannot be passed directly from dog to dog, infected dogs still present a threat in the spread of the larvae.

After 28 days in the dog, the lungworm can then produce its own larvae which can spread through dogs faeces. This then exposes slugs, snails and other animals to the parasite.

Lungworm cannot be passed on to humans.

What are the signs?

There are a variety of signs to keep an eye out for that could indicate that your dog has contracted lungworm.

Vets4Pets outlines the symptoms as:

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CoughingChanges in your dog's breathing or it is struggling to breatheChanges in your dog’s appetite, like going off food - weight loss is also something to look out forAn upset stomach with vomiting and/or diarrhoeaLethargyBruises which are excessive or that have appeared without explanationPale gumsProblems with bleeding, such as blood in the urine, stool, vomit or a cut not clotting

The early stages of the infection may not show any symptoms and the signs that are presented can easily be mistaken for something else, so it’s key that you keep a close eye on your pet.

If you have noticed any of these signs and are concerned, you should get your dog to a vet as quickly as possible.

How do I treat it?

Vets4Pets brands lungworm as, “One of the most serious parasites out dogs in the UK can pick up - it can even be fatal.”

However, treating the infection when caught early enough is fairly straightforward. The treatment given will depend on the stage of the infection.

The vet will treat lungworm and will administer monthly medication that will both treat the lungworm and prevent your pet from contracting another infection.

How can I prevent my dog from getting lungworm?

There are ways you can help prevent your dog from catching lungworm.

Regular worming treatments are the most effective way of managing potential lungworm infections.

You should not leave your dog’s toys or water bowls out overnight to prevent slugs and snails from crawling over them and leaving behind trails that contain the larvae.

Cleaning up after your dog has gone to the toilet will help stop the spread of the parasite to other animals.

Keeping a close eye out for any slugs or snails in the area and keeping your dog away is also key.

This article originally appeared on our sister site Edinburgh Evening News