It’s that time of year again when we need to be even more mindful of protecting our pets against fleas and worms. Good flea treatments and wormers can be bought from your vet or from any good online pet chemist.
However, there is a new threat to our cats and dogs in the UK now, called Lungworm or Angiostrongylus vasorum (also known as French Heartworm). It is a parasite that infects dogs and cats. The adult of this particular lungworm lives in the heart and major blood vessels supplying the lungs, where it can cause a host of problems. Left untreated, the infection can often be fatal. Cases of lungworm can be found almost anywhere in the UK, but is endemic in the South. However, the latest figures show that there has been a high incidence of cases in the North of the country this year (http://www.vetsonline.com/actualites/detail/67452-publication-1/vets-warn-lungworm-could-be-endemic-in-uk.html#.UdrkFjiCWs0.facebook )
Lungworm is contracted through contact with infected slugs and snails. Your dog or cat can catch the parasite by eating the slug or snail, or by eating or drinking from something that a slug or snail has crawled over. Dogs and foxes infected with the parasite excrete the larvae in their faeces, increasing the risk further to uninfected dogs and cats. It is easily preventable with a drop on medication that is only available from your vet. Standard flea and worm treatment does not prevent/treat lungworm.
If you feed your dog(s) or cat(s) outside, or leave water bowls out for them, always ensure they are regularly cleaned. Pick up food bowls as soon as dogs have eaten, don’t leave them down. This helps to prevent slugs and snails crawling across them and potentially infecting the bowl. If you are going to treat your plants for slugs and snails, remember that slug pellets are extremely poisonous to dogs, and they should never be used in an area that your dog can reach.
Lungworm infections can result in a number of different signs which may easily be confused with other illnesses. If your dog is displaying any of the signs below, consult your veterinary surgeon immediately.
There are some dogs which don’t initially show outward signs of lungworm infection. If you are concerned your veterinary surgeon can perform tests which may help detect if your dog is infected with the lungworm parasite . The signs and symptoms can be (this list is not exhaustive) :
- Breathing difficulty and tiring easily
- Poor blood clotting ; excessive bleeding from minor injuries, nose bleeds, bleeding into eye, anemia
- General sickness, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea
- Changes in behavior, tiring easily, seizures
( Source : http://www.lungworm.co.uk/ )
If you are concerned, or need further information on how to prevent or treat lungworm, talk to your Vet. Be lungworm aware….