Dog owners: how you can prevent lungworm
Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a parasitic worm that can cause serious health problems in dogs, and can be fatal if not treated early.
Here are all the facts you need to know about this parasite including how to keep your dog protected against this potential disaster.
What is lungworm?
Lungworm (A.vasorum) is a parasite that can make dogs very ill and even prove fatal if left untreated.
Once rare in the UK, it is now spreading into new areas, with cases reported up and down the country. You can use this lungworm map to see how many cases have been reported near you.
Slugs and snails can carry lungworm larvae, and dogs become infected when they eat these infected molluscs, which can happen intentionally or accidentally when dogs rummage through undergrowth, eat grass and drink from puddles or outdoor water bowls etc. Lungworm larvae can also be released into the slime trail1; meaning anywhere a slug has crawled over is also a potential risk.
Symptoms of lungworm can be varied. A dog with a lungworm infection may have breathing problems (such as a cough), abnormal blood clotting (such as bleeding into eyes or from the nose or internal bleeding) changes in behaviour or general sickness. Dogs can show just one of these symptoms, or a combination. If your dog shows any of these signs, get him checked over by your vet as soon as possible.
Can lungworm be prevented?
Stopping your dog eating slugs or snails is nigh on impossible to do as they can eat them without even realising, when rummaging around in the garden, eating grass, drinking from puddles etc. An easier option to protect your dog is a monthly worming treatment that you can get from your vet.
Not all wormers are effective against lungworm, so speak to your vet about a suitable product. It’s important to know that lungworm prevention must be given monthly and can only be prescribed by your vet. Worming every three months (which is often advised for other parasites such as round and tapeworm) will not be effective at preventing this parasite.
What other measures can I take to protect my pet?
- Stop him eating slugs/snails, if you catch him in the act!
Of course it’s impossible to know when this might happen as slugs can be tiny and dogs can eat them when snacking on grass or drinking from puddles, but if you happen to catch your dog sniffing at a slug or snail, try to stop him eating it if you can!
- Pick up toys from the garden
Any ball or toy left out overnight in the garden may attract slugs and snails, and they are not always easy to see. Smaller snails can reside in the crevices of toys or burrow underneath them. Dogs may accidentally swallow these while playing with the toy, so ideally don’t leave toys outside overnight.
- Regularly clean outside water bowls
If you keep a water bowl for your dog outside, make sure to clean it regularly. Slugs and snails will seek out sources of moisture, making your dog’s water bowl an ideal target.
- Pick up dog poo
Slugs and snails will ingest lungworm larvae from the poo of infected dogs. We know that responsible dog owners already do this, but if everyone picked up and bagged their dog’s poo, it would help to limit the spread.
These tips can help reduce the risk, but a monthly prevention plan from your vet will give you the peace of mind to know that your dog is protected whatever he gets up to when he’s enjoying the great outdoors.
If my dog has lungworm, can he be treated?
If you believe your dog may have lungworm be sure to take him to the vet as soon as possible. Treatment is available, and provided it is caught early enough, most dogs will make a full recovery.
Your vet will use a product to kill the parasite, and may also give your pet other treatment depending on his symptoms.
Whilst most dogs do make a full recovery, the disease can be fatal, so speak to your vet about monthly prevention for this parasite.