Lungworm: Know the Signs

  1. Owning a dog means being responsible for keeping it in good health, and educating ourselves on symptoms and conditions to look out. An increasing health problem in dogs in the UK is lungworm infection. If left untreated, this is a condition that can cause serious problems for a dog.

How do dogs catch lungworm?

It’s surprisingly simple for a dog to get lungworm – basically by eating the larvae that are found in infected slugs, frogs and snails. Dogs can eat these whilst out and about, drinking from ponds and puddles perhaps, or by accidently licking them off their fur.
Whilst the disease can’t be passed from dog to dog directly, a dog that is infected can infect other slugs and snails via their waste, which can then, in turn, become a source of infection to other dogs.

Then what happens?

Once ingested by the dog, the larvae grows inside the dog before turning into adult form. The adult lungworm moves through the body of the dog, aiming for the heart and blood vessels, causing breathing issues for the dog, or in some cases affecting the heart itself. It can also cause pneumonia, although early on this is often a mild infection which can go unnoticed by the owner.
After around 8 days, the worms inside an infected dog will start to produce their own larvae, which is when the serious problems can occur. These include, lung, liver and intestine haemorrhages.

How can I tell if my dog might have lungworm?

Picking up that your dog may have lungworm isn’t easy, however there are a variety of signs that they can exhibit which may indicate an infection. They include:
Breathing problems
Lethargy and reluctance to exercise
Severe bleeding from a minor cut
Poor appetite
If your dog shows any of these signs, take them to your vet immediately. He/she will then probably take blood tests, examine their faeces under the microscope, and possibly take a chest x-ray, which all help to diagnose lungworm.

Can you prevent lungworm in dogs?

There are ways that you can prevent your dog becoming infected from lungworm, as well as treating any cases that occur. This involves administering regular parasite control products. For advice about treating and preventing lungworm, speak to your vet. Always be vigilant when you take your dog out to parks, especially in the spring when more snails and slugs are about. Most cases of lungworm are treated successfully but it can be fatal if left untreated in your dog. If you have any concern about your dog, seek your vet’s opinion immediately.
Cases of lungworm are increasing – you can track the number of registered cases in your area