I lost my dog to lungworm – and I’d never even heard of it.

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Our dogs are part of our families and losing them doesn’t bear thinking about. But lungworm is spreading throughout the UK, and infection can potentially end in tragedy for your family pet.

Dogs bring endless joy to our lives. We love their enthusiasm, their playful natures and the unconditional love and affection they show to us. They place themselves firmly at the centre of our families, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because we love our dogs, we want them to be healthy and happy throughout their lives. We feed them quality food, we vaccinate them, we keep them away from busy roads. But in the UK our dogs face a potentially serious danger to their health from a simple parasite, and although many of us have never heard of lungworm, if an infection is left untreated, it can all too easily end in tragedy.

Daisy, a 6 year old Dalmatian from Llanrumney, Wales was recently diagnosed with lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) after she developed a serious cough and breathing problems. Luckily, after two weeks of care at her vets, Daisy’s health improved dramatically. As the parasite was caught early, Daisy managed to survive.

Lungworm larvae are carried by slugs, snails and even by frogs, and can infect dogs if ingested, either deliberately or accidentally. In recent years lungworm has spread to many parts of the UK, and, according to Dr Eric Morgan, of Queen’s University Belfast; “the continued expansion of the range of the lungworm A.vasorum will put increasing populations of dogs at risk.”1

What are the symptoms?

The signs of lungworm infection can vary greatly between dogs and may get confused with other illnesses. Some dogs may have no symptoms at all but some of the more common symptoms include:

  1. Breathing problems or coughing, with dogs maybe tiring more easily.
  2. Problems with blood clotting which could lead to excessive bleeding from minor wounds, nose bleeds, bleeding into the eye, and anaemia (shown sometimes as paleness around the eyes and gums).
  3. Behavioural changes, seizures (fits), spinal pain, weight loss, loss of appetite and vomiting and diarrhoea are also all possible signs.

Although dogs of all ages and breeds can become infected with lungworm, tragically it is younger dogs that seem to be more prone to picking up the parasite. However, in Daisy’s case, she was six when she picked up the infection. Symptoms of infection can easily be confused with other illnesses but if your dog is displaying any of these signs, consult your vet immediately. You can check if lungworm has been reported in your area using this lungworm locator tool.

For further information on the treatment and prevention of lungworm, see our guide to lungworm treatment and prevention.

1 Morgan E. et al., Parasitology International (2009)

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