Lungworm infestation can be acquired from slugs or snails as intermediate hosts, through sniffing or licking them, which causes the parasite egg to enter the dog’s respiratory tract. It is frequently passed from mother to puppy when the young are suckling.Once the parasite takes hold, adult worms produce nodules which cause inflammation and swelling in the trachea (windpipe) and branches of the lungs. This inflammation causes wheezing and a harsh cough, similar to kennel cough. When infestation occurs, it is usually seen in younger dogs, housed together. Other signs you may also notice is that the dog may appear lethargic or depressed.
Because lungworms are not terribly common in dogs, and there are many other, much more frequent causes for these same symptoms, a process of elimination must take place to diagnose the cause and treat the underlying condition.
Diagnosis may require a faecal sample, the use of listening with a stethoscope, x-rays and possibly endoscopy (endoscopy is using a camera to look inside – in this case into the lungs), but it is usually sufficient to treat lung worms with presciption wormers. Severe reactions/infestations may require steroids for 3-10 days, although the outlook for complete cure is very good. If you have any other pets in the home, please make sure that you get them tested and treated too.
Please ensure that you clean your dog’s area thoroughly and wash all bedding regularly to prevent the condition recurring. Remember to monitor your dog closely while he is recovering as occasionally they may have a reaction to the deworming treatments. If you do notice any diarrhoea, vomiting or changes in his behaviour, please contact your vet for advice.