What is Lungworm?
Lungworm is a parasitic infection which can cause serious canine health issues and can be potentially fatal. Cats can also become infected.
The parasite larvae is carried in slugs and snails. The adult parasite finds a home in the major blood vessels supplying the lungs & heart.
How is it caught?
The most direct way is by dogs eating a snail or slug but there are a number of other ways dogs can ingest the lungworm larvae. Snails and slugs moving around your garden will leave their tell-tale signs. Toys, outside water sources, bowls, puddles, ponds and so on will all be at risk of becoming a source of infection. Dogs will also expel the larvae in their own faeces and foxes may also be a source of infection through faeces. Even rummaging through or eating infected grass could lead to the contraction of the parasite.
What are the signs?
The most obvious signs are general and can be mistaken for other health issues
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Other signs are
- Nose bleeds
- Bleeding into the eyes
- Excessive bleeding from wounds
Can it be treated?
Yes, it can be treated and dogs can fully recover. The treatment is not necessarily included in your dog’s annual health strategy but preventative treatment is available. So check with your vet. Prevention is by far the best approach. Ensure toys and water sources in the garden are kept cleaned and ideally removed from potential infection. Be aware of hot spots where snail/slugs can be found. Pick-up poo.
Can it transfer to humans?
No, there is no evidence to support the transfer of the parasite to humans.
It appears lungworm is spreading across the country and is undoubtedly a real concern for dog owners. However it can be prevented and treated and with improvements in diagnosis is quickly identified by vets. Knowledge of cause and symptoms mean early recognition and treatment and sensible preventative measures will reduce risk of infection.
There are a number of excellent resources ‘The Slime Watch’ report produced by Exeter University the Kennel Club and www.lungworm.co.uk all give excellent advice, information and the latter provides a mapping system so you can check the levels of infection in your area by inserting your post code.