How beautiful nature is in autumn!
With just a few drops of rain, the autumn tones intensify and the accumulated water, on the ground and in the spontaneous ponds, invites the small snails, slugs and frogs that they crawl in search of food and light to come out. Our pets find it fun to play with these cute little friends on the floor, and even some more daring want to try their flavor and eat them. Afterwards, a couple of sips of that standing water leaves them refreshed and relaxed.
It is in this habitat where our potential enemy – the lungworm of the nematode family (Angiostrongylus vasorum) – can develop its larvae and get them to enter our dog. Infestation with lungworms is a serious parasitic disease since in more than 10% of cases it can be fatal. But this should not alarm us !, but rather put us on alert since, some published studies indicate that up to 16% of dogs with respiratory symptoms are infected by the lungworm. An adequate preventive prophylaxis will be the best way to help our beloved pet.
Who is the lungworm and how does it infect my dog?
Spain is one of the countries where the disease caused by lungworms is expanding. Today the disease is clearly expanding, but it is not transmitted by any carrier insect or arthropod, but mainly by crustaceans such as snails or slugs. The infestation is produced by the ingestion of carrier animals or of water with larvae in suspension. These young larvae will travel through the intestinal wall and, through the blood flow, will reach the pulmonary arteries and the heart where they will develop into adults and reach a size of 2 cm in length. From the time the parasites enter the body of a healthy dog until they reach maturity, 1 to 2 months can elapse. The infected dog will not only suffer from the disease, but will also act as the originator of the life cycle that the worm needs: After the eggs of the adult worms hatch, the new young larvae will be expelled by coughing, sneezing or exudation, reaching the mouth, from where they will be swallowed and finally excreted with the dog’s feces. Thus the larvae return to the external habitat to be transported to another healthy animal.
Which dogs is most affected by the lungworm?
The disease can appear at any age, but studies indicate that, perhaps due to the specific form of infection through ingestion, the probability of suffering it is greater in young, restless and playful dogs, and also in those that show a tendency predatory. Cases can occur seasonally throughout the year, but due to the increase in the snail population between the months of July and November, the risk of infection will be higher at this time of year.
In the initial stages, a variable clinical picture may appear, with a variety of symptoms both in type and intensity, not only associated with cardiorespiratory signs. Therefore, if we detect any symptoms, we must go to our veterinarian to carry out an examination in search of the parasite in the stool, the pulmonary exudate or in the blood.
The most notable and common symptoms of this disease are:
- Exercise intolerance due to the shortness of breath you experience.
- Severe dry cough after exertion, choking.
- Coagulopathies that cause nosebleeds, prolonged bleeding from minor wounds, and bruising under the skin.
- Lack of appetite and weight loss, leading to anorexia.
- Apathy, low mood and even nervousness and incoordination of movements.
How to prevent lungworm parasitosis?
To prevent lungworm parasitosis we can act on two fronts. On the one hand, we can prevent our dog from having access to potentially infected carriers that live in humid areas or in stagnant waters that we visit. And on the other, we can act on the animal by going to our trusted veterinarian to ask him to make us an adequate preventive plan that includes the Double Monthly Protection against internal and external parasites: protecting our pet from worms, fleas and ticks.