Something to be aware of if you are a dog owner is the dangers of lungworm. Lungworm or Angiostrongylus vasorum is a parasite that causes serious health problems in your canine companions. This parasite can be picked up from mainly slugs and snails around your garden or when out on walks, the slugs carry the larvae of the lungworm and can be ingested by the dogs eating the slugs or just consuming the slug slime.

Infected dogs spread the parasite into the environment as the lungworm larvae is expelled in their poo, slugs and snails that come into contact with the faeces can become infected, increasing the chances of other dogs becoming infected. With more people travelling in the UK with their pets, and foxes roaming, the risk of the parasite spreading around the country will continue although in practice we have not had any recently diagnosed cases.

The symptoms of lungworm vary but are usually a poor clotting time, for example nose bleeds, bruising, anaemia and excessive bleeding from a wound. Breathing problems, especially coughing and becoming tired easily. General sickness although vague can also be symptom, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss and a poor appetite. Changes in behaviour may be noticed for example lethargy, seizures and depression.

There is preventative treatment available and these are prescription treatments from your vet. A tablet can be given which also covers other worms and this should be given monthly for it to be affective for lungworm. A spot on treatment is also available and this also covers fleas, roundworm and some mites, this should be applied on the back of the neck monthly. Your vet will need to have seen your dog within a year so be able to give out these treatments and if they haven’t then you will just need to book an appointment for a health check and to get an accurate weight for your dog.

Cats can be affected but by a different type of lungworm Aelurostrongylus abstrusus, these infections are much more rare but if you notice your cat coughing then it is best to get this checked by your veterinary surgeon. Humans cannot contract lungworm but it is best to keep up to date with worming treatment as roundworm can cause health problems in humans.

If you are concerned about lungworm or have any questions then please contact your veterinary practice who will be happy to help.