The Lungworm parasite (Angiostrongylus vasorum) can be fatal to dogs...but it can easily be prevented. Due to the serious nature of lungworm infection our policy is to recommend preventative treatment for all dogs in our care, with lungworm prevention included as standard for all canine members of our health care plan.
What is lungworm?
The lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a parasite that can cause serious health problems in dogs and can even be fatal if not diagnosed and treated. Lungworm are carried by slugs and snails and infect dogs via ingestion or via the slime they leave over water bowls and toys etc. The adult lungworm live in the heart and major blood vessels and can cause varying problems such as coughing, breathing problems, general sickness, behavioural changes (no energy, seizures) and also problems with blood clotting. Because of the severity of illness with lungworm the infection can be fatal.
How can I protect my dog against lungworm?
Preventative products are available and with regular use prevention is easy to achieve. An easy to use spot on treatment can keep dogs protected, but it is important to use it regularly to be effective. Always speak to your vet because not all worming products are effective against this particular parasite.
How do I know if my dog is infected?
Many infected dogs show no signs of illness. However, dogs that are affected by lungworm will usually show some of the following symptoms:
- Breathing problems
- Bleeding excessively from cuts or bleeding internally with no signs of trauma
- Anaemia and loss of condition
Other animals may show neurological changes including seizures.
If your dog is unwell in any way make an appointment to see your vet.
How would my vet know what is wrong with my dog?
Not all dogs with lungworm show breathing-associated signs. The adult worms in the blood vessels and heart can cause heart failure but also produce a substance to stop the blood clotting. This can cause your dog to bleed, with or without an injury. The bleeding can take place inside the body and may affect the brain or eyes resulting in seizures or blindness.
It is unlikely that a vet will know straight away what is wrong with your dog and a number of tests will be required in most cases to make the diagnosis.
If my dog is infected can it pass disease to me or my other pets?
The infection can't pass direct from to dog to dog without first passing through a slug or snail. However, if you have several dogs living in the same household and one is found to be infected it is likely that the others will also be at high risk of infection. The common lungworm of dogs (Angiostrongylus vasorum) does not affect cats or people.
What is the treatment for lungworm?
The aims of treatment are to eliminate the lungworm infection and also to manage the clinical signs. There are a number of drugs that can be used to eliminate the worms, but infected dogs should be monitored carefully when receiving treatment, as the sudden killing of the worms could result in a severe allergic reaction.
If your dog has severe signs (particularly affecting the brain or signs of heart failure) your pet will need to be hospitalised for specialised care.
Will my dog get better?
Most dogs go on to make a full recovery with appropriate treatment. However, infection can prove fatal for some dogs despite intensive treatment.
Remember it can be easily prevented, but if you think your dog may have been infected it’s important to seek veterinary advice urgently.
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