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Lungworm: what do I need to know?

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What is lungworm?
The lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a parasite that can infect dogs.  The adult worm of this particular worm inhabits the heart and major vessels to the lungs where it can cause a range of problems and, in the worst case scenario and if left untreated, can be fatal.
Lungworm are carried by common garden slugs and snails which can then be eaten by dogs.  Foxes also carry lungworm and have contributed to the spread of the parasite.
As well as causing illness in dogs , if left untreated, the parasite can be passed to other dogs via faeces.

How can I tell of my dog has lungworm?
Puppies seem to be more prone to becoming infected.  Dogs that like to scavenge (especially those who are prone to eating slugs/snails) are at higher risk.  Your vet can perform a test to establish whether your dog is infected.  Below are some signs to look out for, but be aware that any of these signs could be an indication of another illness so always consult your vet if you are worried.
- Breathing difficulty / abnormalities:  Coughing or your dog becomes worn out easily
- Impaired blood clotting:  Excessive bleeding from minor wounds, bleeding from the nose, anaemia (paleness around gums and eyes)
- Generally unwell:  Weight loss, lack of energy, poor appetite, vomiting / diarrhoea
- Behaviour:  Depression, lethargy, seizures (fits)

What can I do to prevent and treat lungworm?
Lungworm is not prevented or treated by convention worming treatments given to pets on a regular basis (either quarterly or monthly).  However, lungworm treatment is widely available and easy to administer but we still recommend checking your dog’s insurance policy to see if it includes cover for lungworm treatment.  Once treated most dogs go on to make a full recovery.  The quicker lungworm is identified and treated the better.  A ‘spot-on’ treatment can be applied to the back which treats the lungworm, but can also be applied monthly to prevent reoccurrence of infection.
For more information call or visit your vet or visit www.lungworm.co.uk for more information about lungworm and the ‘Be Lungworm Aware’ campaign.

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