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How to Recognise Lungworm Symptoms in Your Dog

Updated on June 23, 2015
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What is lungworm?

Lungworms (Angiostrongylus vasorum ) are parasites that infect dogs and other mammals.The parasite is ingested by the dog if they eat a slug or snail that is infested with the worm. Wild animals such as foxes are also at risk of catching lungworm and this may be one way that the parasite has spread through countries such as the UK. This disease, if not treated, can be fatal. In addition, dogs who have the infection will spread it into the general environment in the form of the parasite's larvae. The larvae are excreted through the dog's faeces so increasing the chances of other animals becoming infected.

Lungworms infect dogs usually when they eat snails or slugs

Source
Lungworms are in a group of parasitic worms called Nematodes
Lungworms are in a group of parasitic worms called Nematodes | Source

The Lifecycle of the lungworm

Like most parasites the lungworm will take on a variety of forms during it's lifecycle. These forms evolve to suit the host that the parasite is living in at the time. Larvae are bascially the most immature stage of the parasite.

Slugs and snails pick up the larvae from the ground. The larvae develop into the next stage of the worm. When a dog deliberately or accidentally eats a slug or snail, then once the worm is in the dog's gut it will begin to develop further. From the gut the worm will make it's way to the pulmonary artery by way of the blood stream where it matures into an adult worm. The pulmonary artery is one of the major blood vessels serving the lungs. It is here that the lungworm will lay it's eggs. From the pulmonary artery eggs and larvae, encased in nodes, will move into the lungs. It is these nodules containing eggs and larvae that damage the lungs. When the eggs hatch the larvae are coughed up by the dog and re-swallowed where they end up back in the gut, passed out in the faeces and so the cycle begins again.


What damage does the eggs and larvae cause in the lungs?

The damage done by these parasites leads to pneumonia and/or bronchitis and can be fatal. The damage is caused by the worms irritating the lining of the lungs and bronchial tubes as they make their way out. This sets up and inflammtory response by the dog's immune system to try to combat the damage done. Lungworms are most often seen in young dogs under two years of age and the condition can be chronic lasting months or years. On occasion the condition has also caused sudden death perhaps due to haemorrhage.

Lungworm infections frequently occur in young dogs
Lungworm infections frequently occur in young dogs | Source
Lungworm can affect dogs of all ages, but particularly the young.
Lungworm can affect dogs of all ages, but particularly the young. | Source
Signs and symptoms of lungworm can vary from dog to dog
Signs and symptoms of lungworm can vary from dog to dog | Source

Signs & symptoms of lungworm in your dog

There are a number of signs and symptoms that your dog may show, Having said this, there are quite a few canine conditions that have similar indications. The main ones for lung worm are:

  • Weight loss
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing and become tired quickly
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Poor apetite
  • Regular bleeding - this presents itself as nose bleeds, excessive bleeding from wounds, anaemia and bleeding into the eye. This is caused because the lungworm infection hinders the blood's ability to clot.
  • Behaviour changes and general illness/fatigue, depression.
  • This infestation can also lead to fits/siezures


Preventative Action

  • Collect and dispose of your dog's faeces on a regular basis in a safe and hygenic way.
  • As far as possible discourage dogs from sniffing or taking an interest in snails and slugs - use distraction techniques such as treats and toys. Luckily slugs and snails usually taste foul and most dogs avoid eating them - however there are some dogs who don't seem to mind the bad taste. If your dog happens to enjoy a snack on snails or slugs then be extra vigilant. It's also a good idea to try and reduce the numbers of slugs/snails around your garden if this is a problem.
  • Keep yourself aware of the latest news and advice from quality websites - a few marketing sites may scare monger a bit to get you to buy a product, so check your facts from other sites.
  • If you think your dog is a high risk candidate then speak to your vet. There are spot-on treatments that are given monthly to help prevent this parasite from taking hold. Your vet will be able to advise whether this is necessary or not.

Dogs at higher risk from lungworms should be monitored by owners and their ve
Dogs at higher risk from lungworms should be monitored by owners and their ve | Source

Facts about lungworm infection

There is no doubt that this is a very serious condition and according to 'Lungworm.co.uk' the incidents of infection are on the increase in cooler climates such as the UK. However, as long as pet owners are vigilant and have at least a basic knowledge of how dogs can become infected, there is no reason why a pet won't be treated successfully in most cases.

Here are a few interesting facts in relation to lungworm:

  • According to 'Lungworm.co.uk' the site of the UK's official 'Lungworm Aware' campaign, at least 84% of pet owners still don't know the signs of a potential lungworm infection.
  • At the present time lungworm can't be treated or prevented with the regular 'worming' tablets given to dogs. There is however, a separate and effective treatment available.
  • The latest research by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has confirmed the increase of lungworm infection. However, the rise in figures could be due partly to greater movement of dogs today, from infections zones into previously clear areas. In addition due to greater awareness of this infection more cases are being confirmed so this could add to the figures.
  • The lungworm also lives in the heart of it's host and other major blood vessles apart from the lungs. Indeed the species of lungworm that infects dogs - Angiostrongylus vasorum - is also known as French Heartworm.
  • Cats can also get lungworm infection but it is a different species of worm. In addition, cats tend to get the infection less directly than dogs. Whereas dogs tend to eat slugs/snails, cats eat the birds that have been feeding on the infected slugs/snails.

United Kingdom - lungworm incidents are on the increase

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  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

    Yikes - another thing to worry about, eh? VERY informative and love the dogs~~~ Great topic and well done, Helen!

    Nice job on putting in the map too - I keep forgetting we are supposed to do that...now I'll have to think of something that I write about that can have a map....

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

    I'm happy to say I scored 100, unhappy to know about this threat however. You did a good job of explaining it and gave great details about the how and why. something every dog owner should at least be aware of.

    Voted this up, useful, and interesting.

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

    I see a lot of slugs now because of the hot weather I think in my yard.. and this hub is useful so I could recognize symptoms thank you so much .. now slugs.. are they also found in beer cans left outside overnight or are those snails..without shells.. they look so much alike ..just curious

  • Seeker7 profile image
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    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Audrey, as always lovely to hear from you! I know what you mean - it is something else to worry about for our lovely pets. I love nature etc, but I'll be honest I really hate slugs I think they are revolting! That's my pet hate taking the dogs out at night for the toilet and having to watch where I stand because of the big slimy, yucky slugs!!! Time to put the salt down I think!! Glad that you enjoyed the hub though - I was actually writing the hub and I noticed Maddie had mentioned about putting maps in - as you said earlier Audrey, another thing to worry about! LOL!

  • Seeker7 profile image
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    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi tillsontitan - I love the name!!

    Many thanks for stopping by and glad that you found the hub useful and informative - and well done on the quiz! It would freak me out to know that one of my dogs had caught something so nasty as this and to top it all I hate slugs anyway - disgusting, yucky looking things! It's more my pup I keep an eye on at the moment. Being a 5 month old Lab, she is constantly using her mouth to explore everything. Thankfully she doesn't seem that interested in snails or slugs, just as well since I have enough of the things in my garden at the moment - yuck!

  • Seeker7 profile image
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    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    HI Frank! As always it's a pleasure to read your comments. I hate slugs and snails so much that I never really look at them that closely to be honest. I think though that slugs come from the same animal family as snails but they are from a different species - kind of like a different breed of dog from your own. I have loads of them in my garden. My old neighbour told me to put salt down - it seems a bit cruel so I've not put any down yet, but OMG there are so many just now that I hate taking the dogs out at night! I wish the cold, frosty nights were back to get rid of the little blighters!!

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

    thanks Seeker.. i think im gonna do the salt thing bless you

  • kissayer profile image

    Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Fab Hub! This would be terrifying for a pet owner but this hub gives great information on how to prevent Lungworm!

  • Seeker7 profile image
    Author

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Frank - no problems my friend. I've already been out with my salt shaker! I don't mind one or two slugs and snails but the place has been, to use a good Scots word 'hoaching' with the things - yuck!!

  • Seeker7 profile image
    Author

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi kissayer, always a pleasure to hear from you and yes I agree, I hope none of my dogs ever catch this, it sounds horrific!! I think we all now know where some Sci-Fi writers get their ideas from - probably from the parasite and insect worlds!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

    Poor doggies, hope this helps many to survive an attack from these worms.

  • Seeker7 profile image
    Author

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    hi teaches12345, many thanks for stopping by. I think this disease is absolutely awful and hears hoping none of my dogs ever catch it - yuck!!

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