Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) has been present in the UK for some time in South West England and Wales however recent years have seen a spread of the disease. This is thought to be due in part to global warming, increased number of foxes living in urban environments and the lessening of use of slug pellets.
The adult worms live in the heart and lung arteries of dogs and foxes. The females release eggs which are carried in the bloodstream and lodge in the small blood vessels in the lungs, these are then coughed up and swallowed they are then passed in the dog/fox’s faeces and eaten by slugs and snails. Dogs and Foxes then eat the slugs or snails, the larvae are absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream where they end up in the heart again. This process takes about 2 months in total. Dogs can get infected by accidently eating slugs and snails, for instance when they eat grass (some are very small) there is also some thought that they could be infected by snail trails or eating/rolling in fox faeces ,then grooming themselves.
Some dogs that are infected may appear quite normal, it depends on the individual dog. Symptoms can include coughing, breathing problems, intolerance to activity, weight loss and loss of appetite. However, signs of illness are often not seen for months or years after infection when symptoms are chronic. More rapid changes in health can be seen if the worms go to other organs in the body such as the kidneys or the brain. If lungworm is left untreated it can prove fatal, do not delay in taking your dog to see a veterinarian.
Lungworm is just one of many types of worm that can be prevented by using a regular effective worming product. Lungworm cannot infect humans though other types of worm can. Please consult your veterinarian to gain advice of appropriate treatment, not all wormers treat or prevent the condition