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.
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.