Whilst out walking the dog this year I’ve been amazed at the numbers of large slugs on the ground.
Now slugs are pretty ugly creatures but you might not know that they can also harbour a sinister parasite which is dangerous to dogs.
The parasite is called lungworm, Angiostrongylus vasorum to be precise which is otherwise known as French heartworm.
This worm is endemic in many parts of the UK, living in the wild fox population. The eggs are passed in faeces and are ingested by slugs and snails where the larvae develop.
Pet dogs can then be infected by eating slugs and snails or inadvertently by licking the slime trails or even drinking water or eating grass that slugs have been through.
The parasite develops in the dog where the adult worms live in the heart and pulmonary (lung) blood vessels.
Eggs are laid in the lungs where they are coughed up, swallowed & passed again the dog’s faeces; and the cycle continues.
The effect of the parasite on the dog can be quite varied and extremely serious. Signs range from a cough and lethargy to spontaneous bleeding and death.
Diagnosis can be made using a blood test, faecal test or by finding the eggs or worms in a lung wash (this is a special test done under anaesthesia when investigating lung disease).
As always prevention is better than cure, so we now recommend lungworm prevention as a standard part of any preventative healthcare plan.
Many traditional “wormers” don’t kill lungworm so don’t presume your dog is protected. As well as this, the parasite can cause disease in 1-2 months so monthly preventative treatment is essential.
Many vets will have a Preventative Healthcare Plan which includes routine parasite protection. As with anything, these plans aren’t all the same and cheaper one may not even include lungworm protection; so check your plan to ensure lungworm prevention is included.
Here are some key facts about lungworm in dogs:
• The parasite exists in most parts of the UK
• Lungworm infection can be deadly
• Prevention requires specific worming products given every month