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Lungworm in dogs has been steadily increasing in prevalence since it was first recorded in the UK in the 1970s, and recent studies have shown that it has increased by more than 200% in the last 4 years. This condition, caused by the nematode parasite Angiostrongylus Vasorum, is potentially fatal, and evidence from the Royal Veterinary College suggests that 1 in 5 veterinary practices have diagnosed the condition in dogs at their surgery.

There are several different kinds of lungworm, but this particular strain, the Angiostrongylus Vasorum, infects common garden slugs and snails which are often ingested by dogs. This does not infect cats or people, but in dogs the larvae can migrate to the major blood vessels of the heart that supply the lungs.

The symptoms of this condition are difficult to diagnose, as the dog does not simply cough, as you would expect. Often, it can seem like a general systematic illness, or sometimes a complex clotting disorder, and can occasionally result in a very sudden death. Furthermore, many normal worming tablets won’t affect this parasite, and therefore dog owners need to speak to their vet about finding a product to protect their animal.

However this condition is easy to prevent, if the owner is aware of the condition. Key tips to follow in order to care for your pets are:

  • Speak to your vet, and use monthly products that kill both the adult and the larval stages of the parasite. After all, prevention is the best cure.
  • Change the water bowl regularly. This might make a difference in trying to prevent your dog from drinking from dirty puddles. Obviously, it is impossible to completely monitor this behaviour, but a consistently clean and fresh water bowl might help discourage it.
  • Try to stop your pet from eating slugs and snails. Again, this behaviour is difficult to completely quell, but if you try to teach them from an early age, or even if you start teaching them when they’re fully grown, it could make a difference.
  • Pick up dog toys from the garden regularly. If you leave them there overnight, it is likely that slugs and snails will find their way onto them and therefore into your dog’s mouth early in the morning.
  • Poo sweep your garden. If you do this regularly, you can stop the lungworm spreading from the dog back to snail or slug, and therefore into another dog.

Due to the rising cases of lungworm among dogs, it is recommended that you speak to a vet about methods of prevention, and if you do the easy things on the list, that might help diminish the spreading of this parasite.