You may have seen or heard in the press recently a lot of news about Lungworm, a potentially fatal but preventative disease of dogs. It’s certainly been a hot topic at the Practice as sadly we’ve had confirmed cases in the Dorset area.
Lungworm has been known in the UK for around 20 years, especially in certain areas such as Surrey, South Wales and Cornwall. In the last few years it has become more widespread due to a warmer climate, more widespread movement of dogs, increases in the urban fox population as well as the decrease in the use of slug pellets.
Lungworm aka French Heartworm is caused by a type of worm called Angiostrongylus Vasorum and is a potentially fatal condition affecting dogs and foxes. There are 4 types of lungworm in the UK and this is the only one which can prove fatal. It should not be confused with actual Heartworm which is caused by a completely different type of worm and is not endemic in the UK.
This type of lungworm is not known to infect humans or cats and cannot be passed directly from one dog to another.
The lungworm parasite is carried by slugs and snails. The problem arises when dogs purposefully or accidentally eat these common garden pests when rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or pick them up from their toys.
Dogs of all ages and breeds can become infected with lungworm, however, younger dogs do seem to be more prone to picking up the parasite.
The signs and symptoms can vary greatly such as coughing, tiring easily, excessive bleeding, nose bleeds, bleeding into the eye, anaemia, weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, changes in behaviour, depression and seizures have all been documented. As you can see from the list these could all be related to other illnesses and diseases which can make diagnosing lungworm very difficult.
The message is be vigilant against this potentially life threatening disease but DO NOT PANIC. Preventative treatment is available so seek advice from your Veterinary Surgeon.
BAYER have recently set up a lungworm map monitoring cases and showing how much of a concern this disease is in any specific area around the country. As you can see from the image below there have sadly been many cases in our area.