Many dogs owners in this area haven’t, despite lungworm becoming an increasing problem here in Wales. It causes serious disease in dogs and can even be fatal.
The lungworm parasite angiostrongylus vasorum is spread by slugs and snails.
Dogs become infected by eating affected slugs and snails. Some dogs will eat slugs and snails for fun. Others ill become infected accidentally; by eating grass, drinking from puddles or picking them up from their toys.
Worm larvae can be found in snail slime, so dogs do not have to eat a slug or snail to get the infection. Foxes can also become infected and spread lungworm.
Lungworm infection can cause many different clinical problems:
- Breathing Difficulties
- rapid, heavy breathing
- exercise intolerance
Poor blood clotting
- bruising easily
- excessive bleeding from small cuts
- nose bleeds
- pale gums or gums with bruises
- weight loss
- poor appetite
- vomiting or diarrhoea
Nervous system disease
- seizures and loss of balance
- behavioural changes
In some cases, the infection is severe enough to be fatal.
We have diagnosed several canine patients of the practice with severe disease syndromes caused by lungworm. It is an increasing problem in this area.
Dogs can be tested for lungworm by collecting faeces samples for three consecutive days. This is sent to a laboratory, who analyse the sample for lungworm larvae.
If dogs are infected, the lungworm can be treated. Treatment is with either Milbemax, a tablet, or Advocate, a spot on preparation. Both these medications are prescription only drugs and therefore must be obtained from Veterinary Surgeries. Pet shops and supermarkets cannot sell these drugs.
These are the only medications which are effective against lungworm and have been properly tested to make sure thay are safe for dogs.
If your dog could be at risk from lungworm, they should be regularly treated with an effective product.
Cats do not get Angiostrongylus vasorum, but instead have their own lungworm, Aelostrongylus abstrusus. This lungworm is also treatable using a drugs.
Remember: if you want to reduce slugs and snails in the garden, slug pellets, especially those containing Metaldehyde are very toxic to both cats and dogs and can kill.
You can find out more about lungworm here.