Lungworm In Dogs: A Silent But Serious Disease

Lungworm is a type of parasitic worm that can infect the lungs and respiratory system of animals, including dogs. There are several different species of lungworm, but the most common type that affects dogs is called Angiostrongylus vasorum.

What are the symptoms of lungworm infection?

The symptoms of lungworm in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the infection, the age and health status of the dog, and other factors. However, some common symptoms of lungworm infection in dogs include:

Coughing: One of the most common symptoms of lungworm infection in dogs is a persistent cough. The cough may be dry or moist and may be accompanied by wheezing or difficulty breathing.

Difficulty breathing: As the infection progresses, dogs may have difficulty breathing or may pant excessively.

Lethargy: Infected dogs may seem tired or lethargic and may not have their usual energy level.

Loss of appetite: Dogs with lungworm infection may lose their appetite and may be less interested in food or treats.

Weight loss: Infected dogs may lose weight as a result of decreased appetite and other factors related to the infection.

Bleeding disorders: In severe cases of lungworm infection, dogs may develop bleeding disorders, which can cause nosebleeds, bleeding from the gums or other parts of the body, or blood in the urine or feces.

What causes lungworm in dogs?

Lungworm In Dogs snails
Lungworm in dogs from snails

Lungworm in dogs is caused by several different species of parasitic worms, including Angiostrongylus vasorum and Crenosoma vulpis. These worms are commonly found in slugs, snails, and other intermediate hosts that dogs may come into contact with, either by ingesting them or by touching their slime.

When a dog ingests an infected intermediate host, the larvae of the lungworms migrate through the dog’s body and settle in the lungs, where they mature into adult worms. The adult worms can then lay eggs, which are coughed up and swallowed by the dog, passing out of their body through feces.

Dogs can also become infected with lungworm by ingesting the feces of an infected animal that contains lungworm larvae. This can happen when dogs are allowed to roam and come into contact with wildlife or other dogs who may be carrying the infection.

It’s important for pet owners to be aware of the risk of lungworm infection in their dogs and take steps to prevent it, such as keeping their dogs away from areas where slugs and snails are commonly found and regularly administering preventive medications as recommended by their veterinarian.

Testing for lungworm

Lungworm in dogs can be diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, blood tests, and imaging studies. Your veterinarian may perform a chest x-ray to look for signs of lung damage, as well as blood tests to check for signs of infection and bleeding disorders. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend more invasive testing, such as a bronchoscopy or lung biopsy, to confirm the diagnosis.

Lungworm treatment for dogs

Treatment for lungworm infection in dogs typically involves a combination of medication and supportive care. Your veterinarian may prescribe deworming medications to kill the adult worms and their larvae, as well as medications to treat any secondary infections or bleeding disorders. In severe cases, hospitalization and supportive care, such as oxygen therapy or blood transfusions, may be necessary.

The primary objectives of treating lungworm in dogs are to eliminate the parasite and manage any associated symptoms, such as inflammation. Specific antiparasitic drugs are typically used to kill the lungworm, with the specific medication depending on the type of parasite involved. Examples of medications that may be used include ivermectin, fenbendazole (Panacur™), Moxidectin+Imidacloprid (Advantage Multi™), and Milbemycin Oxime+praziquantel (Interceptor Plus™). The duration of treatment will depend on the severity of the infection, with medication prescribed for a few weeks to several months. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to alleviate inflammation in dogs with moderate symptoms.

How to prevent lungworm in dogs

There are several steps you can take to help prevent your dog from getting lungworm. These include:

  • Keep your dog away from areas where slugs and snails are commonly found, such as gardens, parks, and wooded areas.
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink from outdoor water sources, such as puddles, streams, or ponds, as these can be contaminated with the slime of infected intermediate hosts.
  • Clean up your dog’s feces promptly to prevent the spread of infection to other dogs and to reduce the risk of your dog ingesting infected feces.
  • Administer preventive medications as recommended by your veterinarian. These medications are typically given monthly and can help protect your dog against a variety of parasites, including lungworm.

Can lungworm be transmitted from dogs to humans?

While lungworm in dogs are not typically transmitted to humans, there have been rare cases of human infection reported. In most cases, human infection occurs when a person ingests an infected intermediate host, such as a slug or snail. However, human infection is still uncommon, and most people who come into contact with infected intermediate hosts do not develop symptoms.

Are there areas where these infections are more common?

Yes, there are certain areas where lungworm in dogs are more common. Lungworms are prevalent in many parts of the world, but their distribution can vary depending on the climate and environment.

In Europe, the UK, and Ireland, lungworm infections in dogs have become increasingly common in recent years, with many cases reported in urban and suburban areas. This is thought to be related to changes in climate, which have led to an increase in the populations of slugs and snails, the intermediate hosts for the lungworms.

In North America, lungworm infections are less common, but they can still occur in some areas. The species of lungworms that are found in North America differ from those found in Europe and other parts of the world, and their distribution can vary depending on the climate and environment.

Overall, the risk of lungworm infection in dogs can vary depending on the geographic location and local environment. It’s important for pet owners to be aware of the risk of lungworm infection in their area and take appropriate steps to prevent their dogs from coming into contact with infected intermediate hosts.

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