Lungworm in dogs

sleeping dog on a bed
Written by: Sam Webster (BVetMed MRCVS) Head Vet at Joii

Lungworm are short parasitic worms that can affect dogs. It lives in the blood vessels that supply the lungs and in the heart and can cause a serious problem for your furry friend.

In this post, we’ll take a more detailed look at how exactly dogs get lungworm, what symptoms you should look out for and how to take care of your dog if they get infected with lungworm.


How do dogs get lungworm?


Unlike many other illnesses and diseases dogs can catch, lungworm is one that’s not passed directly from one dog to another. Dogs become infected with lungworm when they eat infected slugs, snails or frogs. Often this can be accidental ingestion when a dog is eating grass.

Once infected, adults worms live in the blood vessels supplying the lung and in the heart. They lay eggs which hatch to larvae, are coughed up and swallowed and passed out in your dog’s poo. These larve are then ingested by snails and slugs and the life cycle begins again.



What are the symptoms of lungworm?


Symptoms of lungworm can vary and so this disease can be difficult to diagnose. However, some of the more common signs and symptoms can include:

  • Coughing
  • Breathing problems
  • Not wanting to be active
  • Abnormal blood clotting (bleeding for longer than usual when getting a minor injury such a small cut)
  • Neurological signs such as seizures


If you notice any of these symptoms or suspect something may be wrong, it’s best to get your dog checked as soon as possible. Vets can examine a sample of the dog’s faeces under a microscope or take blood tests to help diagnose if the dog has lungworm.


How to treat lungworm?


Treating and killing lungworm is actually relatively simple and usually involves keeping your dog on routine, veterinary recommended preventative anti-parasite treatment. It is also important to be extra vigilant when taking your dog out for walks and try to keep them away from slugs and snails. It’s also a good idea to always pick up and safely dispose of your dog’s faeces to prevent any infection.


If the disease is caught early, there will usually be no need for expensive or invasive treatments, however if the disease has been left to worsen over time and there is more significant and permanent damage, treatment will most likely be more costly.

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