Lungworm - is your dog at risk

This life-threatening lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum is carried by slugs and snails. If your dog could swallow one of these common garden visitors there is a risk it could become infected.

Foxes can also become infected and they play a role in the spread of infection.

Lungwom is a life-threatening disease and with cases being more widely reported it is a problem that appears to be on the increase, with the lungworm becoming more widespread in the UK- the reason of this is unknown but could possibly be due to climate change.

There are two main problems caused by dogs becoming infected with lungworm:

Infection with lungworm can cause serious health problems in dogs, and is often fatal if not diagnosed and treated.

Dogs infected with lungworm spread the parasite into the environment, as the larvae of the parasite are expelled in the dog’s faeces. This increases the chances of other dogs becoming infected.

What are the signs my dog has lungworm? 

Dogs of all ages and breeds can become infected with lungworm. However, younger dogs seem to be more prone to picking up the parasite. Dogs known to eat slugs and snails should also be considered high risk.

Lungworm infections can result in a number of different signs which may easily be confused with other illnesses. If your dog is displaying any of the signs below, consult your veterinary surgeon immediately.

Breathing problems

  • Coughing or tiring easily

Poor blood clotting

  • Excessive bleeding from even minor wounds/cuts
  • Nose bleed, bleeding into the eye, anaemia (paleness around the eyes gums)
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Changes in behaviour

  • Depression
  • Tiring easily
  • Seizures (fits)

There are some dogs which don’t initially show outward signs of lungworm infection. Your veterinary surgeon can perform tests which may help detect if your dog is infected with the lungworm parasite, if you are concerned.

Prevention and Treatment

It is important to recognise that lungworm is not prevented or treated by the conventional use of worming tablets when given every three months, or even every month.

Thankfully, treatment of lungworm infection in dogs is widely available and easy to administer. Once diagnosed and treated, most dogs make a full recovery. The key to successful treatment is taking action early.

If you are concerned your dog has picked up, or is at risk from, picking up a lungworm infection, speak to your veterinary surgeon without delay.

Prevention and Treatment of Angiostrongylus vasorum

Your vet can prescribe a specific spot-on solution to treat this parasite, which is applied to the back of the neck.

Applied monthly this product can also prevent the establishment of infection with Angiostrongylus vasorum. Speak to your veterinary surgeon for further advice.

What else can I do?

Your veterinary surgeon can recommend a parasite control programme that takes into account the risk of your dog becoming infected with lungworm.

If your dog eats slugs or snails, but is not showing any symptoms, arrange a check up with your veterinary surgeon as a precaution.

If your dog has had lungworm your vet may recommend regular check ups to allow early detection if your dog becomes re infected.

If you own a number of dogs and one becomes infected, make your veterinary surgeon aware as he or she may want to examine other dogs which share its environment.

In line with preventing worm infestations in your pets and family (the lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum does not infect humans), keep your garden and surrounding areas as free as possible from dog mess.