Lungworm has been in the media – a lot! It even sounds horrible to say doesn’t it, that’s why we’d like to highlight exactly what it is and what to look out for.

Who or what is at risk from lungworm?

Dogs, and also foxes.

What is Lungworm?

Lungworm is a parasite, which is carried by slugs and snails. Untreated it can be fatal, which is why the following information will be useful for all dog owners.

How is lungworm transmitted?

Lungworm can be contracted by dogs eating / swallowing infected slugs or snails. Additional research has confirmed that the slime trail left behind by slugs could present a threat for the transmission too. (Conboy et al, WAAVP 2015)

What are the signs?

Some dogs don’t show signs initially, but there are a few things to look out for. Don’t panic if your dog has any of these symptoms as they are similar to other less dangerous conditions too. Get in touch with your vet for reassurance and / or treatment.

  • Breathing problems
  • Poor blood clotting
  • General sickness (weight loss, poor appetite, diarrhoea, etc)
  • Changes in behaviour (depression, lethargy, seizures)

Is there a treatment available?

Yes, and it can result in full recovery. However, as the parasite can be fatal it is recommended that prevention is considered. Speak to your Vet for more information or visit Lungworm.co.uk for up-to-date research results and advice.

It’s also important to note that not all worming treatments effectively protect against Lungworm, again your Vet can help you with this.

Have there been cases in my area?

The spread of the disease increased from 7.3% to 18.3% in the UK between 2008 and 2015.

Foxes were initially monitored to assess the spread of the disease, but as it’s become more of a concern vets are asked to update an interactive map with each confirmed or suspected case, so that areas most at risk can be identified by dog owners. Check out the map available at http://www.Lungworm.co.uk/Lungworm-map/

We asked Sophie, We Love Pets Vet Nurse and Stroud Franchisee, what her experience of Lungworm was:

Thankfully I only saw a couple of cases of dogs diagnosed with Lungworm while I was nursing. Certainly in my last practice they had a protocol of using Advocate Spot On as the preferred wormer, which was backed up with Drontal / Droncil for tapeworm as Advocate does not cover tapeworm.

All dogs that had suspicious long blood clotting times were blood tested for Lungworm as part of a blood screen, especially if we knew that the owners were not using Advocate as part of their worming protocol. 

As the symptoms of Lungworm can be the symptoms of so many other conditions; Lungworm tends to be included in all blood tests that vets send off when they are presented with a dog that perhaps is becoming exercise intolerant, coughing, lethargic, unexplained bruising, wounds that take a long time to heal, etc. As a general rule most vets would prescribe Advocate just to cover the Lungworm base until blood test results are back to confirm either way what is causing the dog’s symptoms. At least then there is no delay in treatment, and if it is not Lungworm it is not going to do the dog any harm.

Sophie’s Tips:

Dog toys left out in the garden for slugs and snails to leave their trails all over would be a risk, especially to young puppies when they then go to pick them up and carry them around to play and chew on them. If any have been left out, give them a good wash before your dog picks them up to play with them.

It is also important to remember that Advocate is a monthly spot on, skipping a month here and there increases the risk of dogs picking up Lungworm and adding to its geographic reach. Monthly treatment will halt the lifecycle of Lungworm and kill it!

Our on call Vet Nurse, Chelsey, said; 

Lungworm is a fairly recent disease, but we seem to be hearing more and more about it, especially through various media outlets, as more information becomes available.  It is something we routinely aim to prevent through our flea and worming protocols but not something we seem to diagnose a lot of in clinic.  

The main thing to remember, is that this lack of diagnosis does not mean it is not out there or that patients aren’t affected.  As mentioned above, Lungworm can be easily mistaken for various other diseases as it’s symptoms can be quite vague at times, tests are not always the most definitive and mild cases often go unnoticed by owners. The best treatment option I can recommend is prevention.  

As always, if you are in any doubt or have any concerns, please call your Vet right away. They’re always there to help.