The good news is that lungworm in dogs is far less common than other parasites like fleas and ticks. Now for the bad news, it is spreading rapidly across the UK and no-one is exactly sure why and Lungworm is lethal to dogs if it is not treated.
As the problem has been growing an awareness campaign has been underway, and you will probably have seen the ad
For this reason it is imperative that you recognise the signs of infestation as early as possible and get treatment. This article will explain what lungworm is, how your dog can get it, what the symptoms are and what to do if you think your pet has become infested.
What is Lungworm?
Lungworm is a parasite that can cause serious health problems in dogs, including death, if it is not diagnosed and treated. Unlike other parasites like tapeworm, which require very high levels of infestation before they cause dogs any real health problems, lungworm in dogs can cause catastrophic problems at low levels.
Lungworm is a general term for several species of nematode worms of the order Strongylida. All of them migrate to their hosts’ lungs or respiratory tracts and gradually damage the airways or lung tissue by inciting an inflammatory reaction inside the tissue, hence their lung worm name.
How Do Dogs Get Lungworm?
Lungworm are parasitic worms that are usually carried by snails and slugs and ingested when these mollusks are eaten. Once ingested the snail or slug gets digested but the larvae can survive in the abdomen. Once freed it makes its way to the lungs of the dog where it develops into an adult.
While you should always make sure you keep your dog away from snails and slugs, recent research from the Atlantic Veterinary College has has also shown that infectious larvae can also be released into the mollusk’s slime where they were shown to survive for up to 15 days on vegetation.
Lungworm can find their way into your dog even if they show no interest in eating slugs or snails as small snails and slugs can easily be ingested while eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls or if a snail leaves a trail across a dog’s toy or similar.
To make matters even worse there are types of lungworm that can be carried by foxes. These are then excreted by the foxes and I am sure you do not need reminding how much dogs love fox poop… So while care is needed to keep your dog safe from lungworm it cannot be limited to simply keeping them away from snails any more.
The problem arises when dogs eat these common garden pests when rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or pick them up from their toys.
We’re also able to educate more owners about the dangers and the importance of good, preventative healthcare.
Common lungworm types affecting dogs in the UK
There are many different types of lungworm, some affect cattle, deer, goats etc but there are two types of lungworm that commonly affect dogs in the UK; Angiostrongylus Vasosum (or French Heartworm) and Crenosoma Vulpis (or Fox Lungworm). There are others including Oslerus Osleri and Filaroides Hirth but, as these are far less common, they have been omitted them from this article.
Angiostrongylus Vasosum Lifecycle
The adult lungworms adults live in the blood vessels supplying the lungs to their host. Here they lay eggs which hatch and the larvae migrate into the lungs, causing an irritation in their host. Once the host coughs, the larvae are propelled up into the mouth and then swallowed where they go through their host’s digestive system before being expelled in their faeces.
Dog faeces are highly nutritious to snails and slugs. The larvae need to find themselves eaten by snails or slugs within 7 days for them to survive. If they find a new host they mature to the next larval stage, which can infect dogs. Between 10 and 17 days after being excreted by the dog these infective larvae enter another dog when it eats the slug or snail.
After the snail or slug is eaten it gets digested and around three days later the lungworm larvae can escape into the dog’s abdomen. From here find their way through their new host’s body to the lungs where they become mature larvae and the cycle repeats.
Crenosoma Vulpis Lifecycle
The life cycle of Crenosoma is similar except that the adult worms live in the airways rather than the blood vessels of the lungs, but the dog becomes infested by eating a slug or snail or their slime.
As much as 50% of foxes in the South East have been reported can also be affected by this parasite. With their growing numbers and ability to roam as much as 50km, they can spread it widely and this variety of lungworm is becoming more prevalent across the UK.