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Does your dog have lungworm?

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Lungworm is a life-threatening parasite and it can infect dogs of any breed and age. To protect your pet, it’s useful to know how to prevent lungworm in dogs and what the potential symptoms are.
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Known as Angiostrongylus vasorum, lungworm is often transmitted when dogs and foxes eat infected slugs and snails, accidentally or deliberately, whilst rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or picking them up from their toys. Unlike some other parasites that may cause your dog mild pain or discomfort, lungworm can be fatal if the condition is not diagnosed and treated. The earlier you spot and treat a lungworm infection, the more likely your dog will recover, so it’s essential to know what to look for:

Breathing difficulties
A persistent cough is one of the more common symptoms of lungworm and should never be ignored or confused with more common respiratory infections like kennel cough. A dog with lungworm is also likely to tire easily, even after gentle exercise, so that could be one of the first physical changes you notice – especially in young, previously lively dogs.

Poor blood clotting
If your dog bleeds persistently from a minor wound, it could be a sign that lungworm is present. Poor blood clotting can also make your dog more prone to nose bleeds, and can cause anaemia, which may make your dog’s eyes and gums look paler than usual.

General sickness
Lungworm can be associated with vomiting and diarrhoea, but this is not always the case and these are also the symptoms of many other common or temporary health problems – including food allergies and tummy upsets. However, if your dog has contracted lungworm, it may also have other non-specific signs such as weight loss or poor appetite.

Behavioural changes
Changes in behaviour can be hard to pin down but if your dog is noticeably lethargic or depressed, or suffers from seizures, you should always contact your vet immediately. Lungworm can be present in your dog’s body for months without any obvious symptoms, and the signs are easily confused with other illnesses, which makes diagnosis tricky.

What next?
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What next?

If you spot any of the signs of lungworm, it’s vital that you take your dog to a vet as soon as possible. Once diagnosed, your vet can administer a lungworm treatment for dogs, which in most cases will result in a full recovery.

Lungworm has been on the increase, and is now endemic throughout much of the UK, so it is also important to think about how to prevent your dog becoming infected with lungworm in the first place. This is particularly important if you live in an area where lungworm has been reported (you can use this online lungworm locator to check), or if your dog regularly eats or licks slugs and snails.

Always speak to your vet before choosing a preventative product because not all worming products are effective against lungworm. Unlike many other worming products that only need to be given once every three months, it’s important to treat your dog for lungworm every month – as not doing so leaves them unprotected for too long between doses.

Dogs are naturally curious, so you might not know what they’re sniffing when they venture off into the garden. Breaking the life-cycle of the lungworm is important too: always pick up and dispose of your dog’s poo safely.

Use the lungworm map to see if any cases have been reported in your area.