It's gradually becoming more common
An emerging disease
A: Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) infection is what we call an “emerging” disease. Initially found mainly in the south of the UK, it is gradually becoming more common.
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How is lungworm transmitted?
Lungworm is not passed directly from dog to dog; the worm needs a slug or snail host in order to grow and develop, and it is from eating larvae found in infected slugs and snails that dogs become infected. Dogs can, for instance, accidentally eat small infected slugs if they are on a toy left outside.
The lungworm larvae grow inside the dog, and adult lungworms move through the dog’s body to live in the heart and blood vessels.
Spotting the symptoms of lungworm in dogs
Diagnosing lungworm in dogs can be difficult because symptoms vary, but they can include coughing, breathing problems, a reluctance to exercise and abnormal blood clotting. Lungworm can cause haemorrhages in the lungs, liver, intestine, eyes and spinal cord. Left untreated, lungworm infection can be fatal in severe cases.
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What can you do about it?
Your vet can provide treatments, typically given or applied monthly, to protect your dogs. Slug and snail infestations in gardens have been reduced during the hot dry summer, which drove them underground to find moisture, food and to breed. They will now be emerging in high numbers and dogs will be more at risk.
If you see slugs and snails in your garden or when out exercising your dog, be extra vigilant. Always pick up and safely dispose of your dog’s waste and consult your vet if your dog becomes unwell.