Young dogs and those that are not wormed regularly are significantly more likely to be infected with the life-threatening, parasitic lungworm, Angiostrongylus vasorum, according to new research from the University of Bristol. Lungworm is now widespread throughout southern Britain, with reports of cases further north.

[sws_toggle1 title=”Important: Worms Can Kill (Click to Open)”] [This is a sponsored message from DogWorms.co.uk] — There are several variations of the Lungworm parasite, and the majority are found in warmer climates, and are not found in dogs. Different types of the parasite have often been found in farm animals like cattle, and some strains can affect our cats, although this is not common, and those parasites cannot be passed to dogs.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3093/4563823715_b697b49630.jpg

But one parasite does affect our dogs, and it’s this one that’s causing all the concern.

The parasite cannot be passed to humans or to other pets in the house, but the spokesman for Bayer Animal health explains: “The lungworm Angiostrongylus Vasorum is a potentially lethal parasite that can infect dogs. It’s sometimes referred to as the French Heartworm, and left untreated this parasite represents a very serious risk to a dog’s health and can kill.”

He continues: “Dogs become infected with the lungworm through eating slugs and snails which carry the larvae of the parasite Angiostrongylus Vasorum. Most dogs do not habitually eat these garden intruders, they may do so by accident – e.g. when a slug or snail is sitting on a bone or a favourite toy, or when drinking from a puddle or outdoor water bowl. But some dogs do take great pleasure in eating these miniature ‘treats’, and should be considered at risk from infection.”

To find out more about how to protect your dog from lungworm and other potentially fatal canine worms – visit the Dog Worms website.[/sws_toggle1]

Veterinarians are advised to be vigilant for lungworm-associated disease. In the first study of its kind in Great Britain, scientists in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences tested the faeces of almost 900 dogs for lungworm to look for factors which may increase a dog’s risk of infection and to identify signs of infection.

Lungworm was found to be a common cause of disease in Southwest England and Wales – 16 per cent of dogs presenting symptoms tested positive for lungworm, as well as 2 per cent of seemingly healthy dogs. However, this is likely to be an underestimate. Dogs under 18 months were found to be 8 times more likely to have lungworm than dogs over 8 years old, and dogs between 18 months and 8 years old were 4 times more likely to have lungworm than dogs over 8 years old.

Dogs tested positive for lungworm year-round but there was an increase in numbers diagnosed during the winter and spring. Infected dogs may display a wide range of symptoms and diagnosis is challenging. While over half of infected dogs were reported to be coughing or having difficulty breathing, lungworm infection is not always associated with respiratory signs. Infected dogs may present any combination of a wide range of symptoms including lethargy, tiring easily with exercise, and gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea.

A significant number of infected dogs displayed signs of bleeding disorders such as excessive bleeding from small wounds or following surgery, blood in the urine and vomit, pale skin and bleeding in the eyes and skin. Dr Eric Morgan who led the research, said:

“This parasite can cause serious disease and is spreading, reaching many new areas (including Bristol and Scotland) in the last few years. Disease can present in a variety of ways, not necessarily involving respiratory signs, so pet owners and their vets should be aware of the risk.

Disease is most common in younger dogs, though age is not a barrier to infection. On the bright side, dogs that are treated regularly with appropriate wormers are at lower risk, so we can act to protect our pets’ health.”