Canine Lungworm infection is an emerging disease with increasing numbers of diagnosed cases in dogs. The reason for this is unknown, but could possibly be another result of global warming.
It is caused by the nematode roundworm Angiostrongylus vasorum, first discovered in France, hence it is also called French heartworm.
This endoparasite has been recognized in endemic pockets in many countries with temperate climates, and now in the United Kingdom. This lungworm used to be confined to South Wales, the South West and some areas of the South East. However, more recently cases have been diagnosed over a much wider area throughout the UK, including Scotland and Ireland.
In the last few years the parasite has appeared in parts of Hampshire and is becoming increasingly important in veterinary clinical practice. Locally, it is probably the large number of foxes we have, which are natural hosts for the adult worms, that are in part responsible for the spread of the disease here. As of January, 2009 it became apparent that it was present locally when we had first a Rottweiler from Burseldon and then later a Labradoodle from Hamble that became ill. The Rottweiler, for example, collapsed with anaemia from internal haemorrhage, that tests revealed were due to Lungworm infection. These nematode worms live in the pulmonary artery, mainly causing pulmonary and cardiac diseases and produce anticoagulants that can lead to excessive bleeding and, in rare cases, even sudden death. Infections tend to be chronic (months to years). Dogs of any age can be infected, but clinical diseases are most common in younger dogs of less than 2 years of age, perhaps as they are the most inquisitive and more likely to eat the slugs and snails that harbour the lungworm larvae. Fortunately, both dogs eventually recovered after very lengthy (daily for 45 days) wormer treatment.
For more information, do feel free to come in and see us or ring for further advise.