Dog Worms Online Editor

Canine Lungworms – Lungworms in Dogs

A recent nationwide survey of UK vets revealed that over 25% had confirmed or suspected cases of Lungworm in a dog. But worryingly only 6% of dog owners were aware of the condition’s existence.

lungworm in dogs

Vet Dane Walker from Streatham Hill veterinary surgery in south-west London says: “Most dog owners are unaware of the condition because it is new. Most vets including myself have not been taught about it.” So to rectify this Bayer animal health, makers of the flea treatment Advocate has launched a nationwide campaign to promote lungworm awareness. A Bayer animal health spokesman explains: “The campaign is to raise public awareness of the parasite’s existence. We are running advertisements in the national press, and we have a broadcast campaign featuring celebrity vet Emma Milne from Vets in Practice.”

And the campaign is being backed by Vets from across the UK who are also trying to make owners more aware of the condition. Dane explains: “We are making clients more aware of the condition through leaflets at the surgery and articles on our website.”

Caroline Reay Chief veterinary surgeon at the Blue Cross hospital in Merton adds that the Blue Cross are also trying to raise awareness through displays in the waiting rooms of all Blue Cross hospitals.

So clearly it’s an important issue, but what is a Lungworm? And how does your dog catch it?

There are several variations of the Lungworm parasite, and the majority are found in warmer climates, and are not found in dogs. Different types of the parasite have often been found in farm animals like cattle, and some strains can affect our cats, although this is not common, and those parasites cannot be passed to dogs.

But one parasite does affect our dogs, and it’s this one that’s causing all the concern.

The parasite cannot be passed to humans or to other pets in the house, but the spokesman for Bayer Animal health explains: “The lungworm Angiostrongylus Vasorum is a potentially lethal parasite that can infect dogs. It’s sometimes referred to as the French Heartworm, and left untreated this parasite represents a very serious risk to a dog’s health and can kill.”

He continues: “Dogs become infected with the lungworm through eating slugs and snails which carry the larvae of the parasite Angiostrongylus Vasorum. Most dogs do not habitually eat these garden intruders, they may do so by accident – e.g. when a slug or snail is sitting on a bone or a favourite toy, or when drinking from a puddle or outdoor water bowl. But some dogs do take great pleasure in eating these miniature ‘treats’, and should be considered at risk from infection.”

Animal care manager at the Mayhew animal home, a London based charity and re-homing centre, Gillian Scott adds: “Lungworm is caught via contact with animals that host the parasite. It can also typically be caught from fox faeces as well as from snail or slug slime.”

But Caroline Reay from the Blue cross adds that while it is suspected that the parasite can be caught from the molluscs’ slime this theory is, as yet unproven.

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6 Comments

  • My dog is always drinking from puddles and ponds.What are the chances she could be infected by lungworm?

  • It is possible. I lost my dog to Lungworm 2 years ago…she frequently drank from our pond. I believe she may have got it there although it can be picked up from other sources too. I caught my other dog in time but think he may have permanent lung damage caused by lungworm – he would never have eaten slugs, frogs etc. But he did drink from the pond.
    Not all dogs have symptoms but watch for rapid breathing, coughing, diarrhea,getting tired quickly during play or exercise,no appetite,bleeding too much if she/he gets a cut. Speak to your vet about a course of panacur – prevention is way better than cure. Check if your area is a known ‘hotspot’. If so ask your vet about using advocate spot on monthly after an initial dose of panacur. Play it safe – the consequences of this worm are often fatal.

  • foxes come into our garden on a regular basis not that i actually want them there as i have a dog.i will often find fox poo in the garden which worries me.if the fox/foxes are infected and do their business in my garden how could my dog catch this deadly worm??
    how can i protect my dog against it using drops or tablets??
    than dawn

  • Maybe you should let vet surgerys know about lungworm. My friend took her dog to Bath Vet Group with all the symtoms, for over a year they failed to diagnose lungworm and he died.

  • I believe my beloved border collie had a severe lungworm infection – I used to live in rural South Devon, however I was not aware of the disease and not given suitable advice from the vet there. I moved to Bucks last year when my dog became ill – coughing, less tolerant of exercise and developed an enlarged thyroid. Every vet I went to (4 in all) said her chest x-ray and enlarged thyroid was conclusive that she had secondary cancer from a thyroid carcinoma or mammary mass. She was given a 2 month prognosis in July 2011, however she was still doing well and eating in December so I questioned all 4 vet’s diagnosis and having heard that lungworm can show up like secondary lung cancer on an x-ray I asked my vet to treat her for lung worm. Shortly after starting treatment she went off her food, her breathing became rapid and laboured, she collapsed in the park and developed ascites. I told the vet that I had recently applied Advocate and asked whether it could be due to that or lungworm – The vet said it was due to late stage cancer from the thyroid or mammary lumps – secondary spread to lungs and that the prognosis was poor, she would only deteriorate rapidly over night and strongly advised euthanasia. I made the heart wrenching decision to put her to sleep last week – but then discovered the symptoms she was displaying could have been due to post-treatment complications of lungworm – and that these worms can migrate to the thyroid. I am devastated and angry that Advocate does not have warnings about these post-treatment complications and none of the vets I saw suggested further tests nor seemed to recognise these symptoms.

  • Apparently a condition known as pulmonary nodular eosinophilic granulomatosis can occur secondary to a lungworm infection – this causes large nodules/masses throughout the lungs which can look like secondary lung cancer on an x-ray.

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