What is Lungworm in Dogs?

Different to intestinal worms, adult lungworm can be found in the heart and blood vessels of the lungs, which can be life threatening if left untreated. There are several different lungworms in Ireland – the Fox Lungworm (Crenosoma vulpis), the Cat Lungworm (Aelurostrongylus abstrusus) and the Dog Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum). Here, we will be taking a look at Dog Lungworm.

What are the Causes of Lungworm?

Your dog can contract lungworm by eating larvae found in infected animals such as snails, frogs or slugs. They could also accidentally ingest infected tiny slugs if they are on a toy, bowl, or their fur.

Once the lungworm larvae has been ingested, they then grow inside your dog and adult lungworms move through their body to live in their heart and blood vessels. This can cause heart problems, breathing problems and pneumonia. After about 28 days the worms will begin to produce their own larvae which can lead to very serious issues, such haemorrhages in the lungs, liver, intestine, eyes and spinal cord. If left untreated, it can be fatal in severe cases.

Symptoms of Lungworm

Dogs infected with lungworm can experience any of the following symptoms;

  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Resisting exercise and lethargy
  • Weight loss

If your dog is displaying anything listed above, it’s important to take them to the vet. In some cases, they may not experience any symptoms at all, but if you suspect they may be infected, it is best to get them checked out right away. Your vet will most likely ask you to bring a faeces sample in so they can under the microscope to help diagnose the problem.

Dogs can’t spread lungworm to another dog but they will pass the larvae in their waste. This then infects more slugs and snails who are eaten by more dogs, so the disease can spread very quickly within dog communities.

senior dog lying down on sofa looking tired

Which dogs are more likely to catching lungworm?

Dogs of all ages and breeds are susceptible to lungworm, but playful, younger dogs such as puppies can be more prone to picking up the parasite.

Is Lungworm Common in Ireland?

Slugs and snails, who carry the lungworm larvae thrive, thrive in Ireland’s climate. Molluscs can be active all year round and it has been estimated that an acre of farmland can support over 250,000 slugs. Not every snail or slug is a carrier of the disease and infection is currently relatively uncommon, but it does pop up from time to time. In very severe cases it causes the death of infected patients, so it is to be taken seriously.

What do I do if I think my dog may be infected?

If you’re concerned your dog has picked up lungworm, is displaying signs of the disease, or is at risk from lungworm infection, it is essential you contact your vet immediately. Your vet will able to provide you with treatment and advice going forward. Once diagnosed and treated, most dogs make a full recovery. Like all diseases, the key to successful treatment is taking action early.

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