Lungworm in Dogs - Be Aware
Most dog owners know about the dangers of heartworm, but few have heard of an increasingly common threat known as lungworm. Instances of lungworm throughout the UK are increasing, and Lungworm Awareness Month is the perfect time for pet owners to become familiar with the causes, symptoms, and treatment of it.
What are Lungworms?
Lungworms are parasitic nematodes that get into an animal’s body, where they infest the lungs and respiratory system. They begin as larvae in the intestines of their host animal, where they then migrate to the lungs via the bloodstream and then finally develop into an adult lungworm. These adult parasites then produce more larvae, which then are coughed up and ingested back into the stomach, where the life cycle begins itself all over again.
Signs and Symptoms
Lungworm in dogs is usually characterised by excessive coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing. Canines may also be lethargic and have little interest in normal activities. Many of them will also experience a loss of appetite along with these other symptoms. These symptoms may come on suddenly and last for an extended period of time, and may even cause depression and severe weight loss over time.
How are they Spread?
Lungworm is spread directly from one host to another, and the exact manner of infestation will depend upon the type of lungworm a dog has. Some are transmitted mainly through crayfish or snails, so dogs that swim in or drink water where these animals are living could subsequently become infested. Dogs that eat slugs and snails are also at a high risk. Mothers may spread certain types of lungworms directly to their pups, or dogs may also contract them from coming into contact with the faeces of another canine that has contracted them.
Testing for Lungworms
To test for lungworm in dogs, veterinarians normally perform tests on a stool sample, as larvae are excreted in the faeces of dogs that are infected. A swab of the respiratory tract is sometimes performed as well. Dogs that are not already on a heartworm preventative may need to have a test done for heartworm in order to rule out the possibility that those parasites are causing their health problems.
The treatment for lungworm in dogs usually involves administering an anti-parasite drug for a period of time. This is sometimes accompanied by the use of steroids to help eliminate any inflammation that has occurred as well. After completing a treatment regimen, a veterinarian may want to check an animal again in order to ensure that all the parasites have been completely eliminated. Dogs should continue to be checked by a veterinarian on a regular basis to ensure that if they do become re-infested, the problem can be handled as quickly as possible.
Lungworm in dogs is not normally life threatening; however, that doesn’t mean it should be ignored, as it can be fatal. Pet owners whose dogs show signs of a lungworm infestation should consult with their veterinarian immediately.