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Lungworm outbreak across Essex : How to keep your pet safe

Cocker Spaniel smelling a snail on the floor
© Pexels

You may be a stickler at worming your dogs, nevertheless, your best friend is still at risk of lungworm. This virulent disease can be life-threatening, and it is currently spreading at an alarming rate in certain parts of the UK.

By Justine Seraphin, 23 Sep 2019

So far, 7 cases of lungworm have been reported in the Southend area, 12 in the Rayleigh area, and 15 in the Basildon area. If you’re un-sure whether it has spread into your area yet, check the Lungworm Map here.

What is lungworm?

Lungworm is a type of parasite that affects an animal’s heart and lungs. Unlike many diseases, it is not spread directly from dog to dog, but from infected slugs or snails that carry deadly larvae. While your dog may not eat these slimy critters, he could accidentally ingest one when drinking from a puddle or eating grass for instance. Larvae is also contained in slime trails, so caution is to be taken around these, too.

What are the symptoms of lungworm?

Signs that your pooch may be infected by lungworm include:

- Breathing difficulties and coughing (sometimes bringing up blood)
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Changes in behaviour and lethargy
- Persistent bleeding e.g. blood in urine, vomit, mouth

If your dog is showing any of these signs, bring him to a vet immediately. Though lungworm cannot be detected until after four to eight weeks following infection, vets experienced with the infection can give you a quick diagnosis. They can also perform poo samples, blood tests, and/or X-rays to confirm the presence of the parasite in your dog’s body.

How to treat lungworm

Like most diseases, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of recovery. Once diagnosed, your dog will need to take a special medication once a month for several months. Treatments may vary according to your dog’s physical state, as well as how long he has been infected.

Treatment can be quite successful, with only 9% of dogs infected actually dying as a result of it.

The best treatment of course, is prevention! Keep your dogs away from those pesky molluscs, and make sure you speak to your vet if you are in a risky area.