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What are lungworms?
Lungworms (Angiostrongylus vasorum) are a type of parasitic worm. They begin life as an egg, which once hatched into larvae can infect the pulmonary blood vessels. These blood vessels eventually cause the larvae to end up in the throat, where they are then swallowed and excreted. The larvae then develop further on the intermediate host. The intermediate host could be snails or slugs for example. The developed larvae can then infect the dog by either direct ingestion or by the environment that the intermediate host has been in. Once ingested the larvae proceed to develop into adult lungworm and infect the respiratory tract. The incubation period varies from 4-15 weeks.
What are the signs?
Symptoms of a lungworm infection may not be immediately noticeable.
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Pale gums
- Poor blood clotting
How to prevent lungworm
- As the intermediate host (snails and slugs) are very common in UK gardens, it is a good idea to bring all your dogs’ toys, bedding and bowls indoors after use. Slime trails can contain the larvae that causes the infection. It is also a good idea to wash these items are use.
- Keep your dog away from soil. Snails and slugs reside in soil and can infect it with larvae. Provide your dog with alternative digging areas such as sandpits that can be closed after use.
- Don’t let your dog eat grass. Grass can also become infected with slime that contains the larvae. Teach your dog a good ‘leave it’ cue to prevent them eating things they shouldn’t.
- Always dispose of dog waste safely. Faeces will carry on the life cycle of the worm so it is a good way to break the lifestyle.
- Keep on top of your dogs hygiene. Larvae can get into dogs fur and can infect them when they groom themselves.