In recent years, we have had a new threat to our dog’s health.
Not all wormers kill lungworm: contact us for up to date advice!
In the past, the only lung parasite we knew about in local dogs was Crenosoma vulpis, known colloquially as the Fox Lungworm. Even this was a rare cause of clinical illness in pet dogs, and indeed was so noteworthy that in 2000 Craig published the case report of the first Crenosoma vulpis in dogs in NI. Even though this worm is capable of causing illness, it is a relative wimp compared to the new Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) in terms of it’s susceptibility: many different wormers can kill it.
In contrast, at present we only have a very limited armoury against Angiostrongylus. Thus it has never been more important to talk to us about the best wormer to use for your dog/s.
The standard wormers we use now contain the active ingredient milbemycin oxide. Used every month they are licensed to prevent lungworm infection, as well as stopping any active roundworm or tapeworm infections.
Lungworm infection most commonly causes lung disease, as the name suggests, but it can also cause a whole range of problems with blood clotting. As a result it can cause life-threatening blood loss, either from obvious external bleeding, or from internal bleeding and the clinical presentation can be very varied and confusing.
Early detection and treatment is usually successful although the treatment of active lungworm infection requires more aggressive treatment than we use to prevent the infection. Often medication is needed to reduce the damaging inflammation in the lungs etc.
We can often diagnose active lungworm infection in dogs by a blood or faecal test but sometimes we need to perform a diagnostic lung wash or BAL (Broncho Alveolar Lavage) under general anaesthetic.
Case Report of Angiostrongylus vasorum infection in a dog from Bangor, August 2015
Riley, a 9 year old labrador, came in to us at the end of August 2015 with laboured breathing. He had a good appetite but was a little bit dull and lethargic. On examination he was found to have a abnormal respiratory sounds but otherwise had a normal temperature etc.
All of his screening blood test were with normal limits but his chest x-rays were very abnormal.
Healthy lung tissue looks almost completely black on an x-ray with just the fine lines of the airways visible. Riley’s lungs were all much whiter than expected which was due to an inflammatory infiltrate within the lung itself. Subsequent blood tests for Angiostrongylus vasorum (lungworm) antigen was positive. In Riley’s case bronchoscopy or a lungfish wasn’t required for diagnosis.
We started him immediately on anti-parasitic treatment and anti-inflammatory steroids and he was responding very well after a couple of days.
Riley had been wormed, but not for about 6 months so it shows how important it is to use wormers frequently.
Monthly wormers are required to prevent infection and not all wormers are effective against lugworm in dogs.
Case report of Angiostrongylus pneumonia in a dog exercised in Donaghadee on The Commons.
In February 2012, a lovely wee Miniature Schnauzer developed a nasty bout of pneumonia, which simply refused to respond to any combination of antibiotics. Click Poppy: Happy but with obvious respiratory effort to see a video of her abnormal breathing caused by the pneumonia. On the xrays we took it was clear that she had a nasty broncho-pneumonia, and we performed a bronchoalveolar lavage (a sophisticated technique using a camera into the lungs to collect samples of airway mucus and cells for testing). This test confirmed the diagnosis and Poppy was treated successfully: she made a complete recovery thanks to the correct diagnosis and therapy promptly applied. A scary illness though!