Lungworm is a parasitic worm called Angiostrongylus Vasorum that can infect dogs. The larvae of the lungworm parasite are carried by slugs and snails. When dogs purposefully or accidentally eat these common garden pests they can become infected with lungworm.
Lungworm resides in the heart and pulmonary arteries on infected dogs and carries a significant health risk. Although the disease is not spread from dog to dog, infected dogs expel the larvae of the parasite in their poo which increases the risk of others dogs becoming infected.
Lungworm is termed an ’emerging’ disease which means it is becoming more common with more cases being diagnosed.
Slugs and Snails
Some dogs will happily ignore a snail or slug, but many will want to investigate, perhaps even choosing to purposefully eat them. The size of some small slugs and snails means they can accidentally be swallowed when your dog plays with toys, drinks from puddles, eats grass, rummages through the undergrowth or drinks from outdoor water bowls.
Dogs have plenty of opportunities to come into contact with slugs and snails on walks too. Slugs and snails thrive in warm and damp conditions, so spring and autumn are peak times for slug and snail activity.
If your dog swallows slugs or snails there is a risk he/she could be infected with lungworm, which can be fatal.
Detecting Lungworm in Dogs
Lungworm can infect dogs of all ages and breeds. However, younger dogs seem to be more prone to picking up the parasite. Dogs that are known to eat slugs and snails should be considered high risk but in many cases, owners don’t realise that their dogs have a taste for these slimy critters.
Lungworm infections can result in a number of different signs, which may easily be confused with other illnesses. If your dog is displaying any of the signs below, consult your veterinary surgeon immediately.
Breathing problems, including coughing and tiring easily
Excessive bleeding from minor cuts/wounds and nose bleeds
Some dogs don’t initially show visible signs of a lungworm infection, however, if you are concerned that your dog has eaten a slug or snail and may be infected contact your veterinary surgeon immediately.
Veterinarians now have improved detection methods which include blood and faecal sampling to help diagnose early.
Treatment and Prevention
If your dog is diagnosed with lungworm, treatment is available from your vet and is easy to administer. The key to successful treatment is early detection so if you think your dog has ingested a slug or snail or is showing any of the symptoms associated with Lungworm, please contact your vet.
Although treatment is available and often leads to a full recovery, this parasite can be fatal so consider a preventative regime for your dog. Your vet will advise you on which worming products prevent against the parasite, as not all products provide cover.
There are a few things that you can do at home to help reduce your dog’s exposure to slugs and snails:
Pick up dog toys from the garden after use
Regularly clean water bowls, especially those kept outside