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All Dog

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The Lungworm has become increasingly highlighted as a major health issue in dogs over the past year. Because it is contracted in such a non-obvious and everyday activity, such as walking or exercising outdoors, it is commonly not noticed or ignored even when symptoms start to show. Simple treatment, either post infected or as a preventative act, can give your dog freedom from the devastating effects of Lungworm which all too often prove to be FATAL.

Lungworms belong to parasitic nematode worms of the Strongylida order which infest the lungs of vertebrates. Strongylida is a name used for various groups of nematodes of which the majority are known by other common names. However, what they do have in common is that they migrate to their victims (hosts) lungs or respiratory tracts. There they will cause Bronchitis or Pneumonia.

Left untreated, the lungworm will gradually damage the airways or lung tissue by causing an inflammation inside the tissue where the Lungworm ‘resides’ and will ultimately reproduce and increase the inflammatory reaction. It must not be forgotten, that such parasites will have their own particular needs in order to settle and reproduce and they do not simply stop at the first ‘satisfactory’ location, but will be drawn to the location that they seem to know will best suit them. In the case of Lungworms it is the lungs or respiratory tracts.

There are several species of worms which can infect the airways of dogs and are also termed lungworms. Just one of these, Oslerus osleri, previously known as Filaroides osleri,  is a parasitic worm which is found in the trachea. This particular type affects dogs in kennels.

The most common lungworms belong to one of two groups, Trichostrongyloidea or Metastrongyloidea (DOGS), however, not all the species in these 2 groups are lungworms, which is why it is vital for precise identification by a veterinarian.

Lungworms belonging to the Trichostrongyloidea group include several species in the genus Dictyocaulus which infest most common domestic species of hoofed animals. However, different species are found in donkeys, deer, horses, sheep, cattle and goats, demonstrating the specific needs of each species being found in specific animals.

There are several types of Lungworm which effect Dogs specifically, and belong to the Metastrongyloidea group which include species which will infest a wider range of mammals and not just the one specific, such as pigs, sheep, cats and dogs. Some of these Lungworms have an indirect and quite complex life-cycle before infecting victims, which in our interest is the dog (Angiostrongylus vasorum).



The life-cycle of Lungworms is complex and similar to other parasites that require a host or victim for its lifecycle, we will demonstrate this by taking day 1 as the starting point.

Day 1, immature larvae are present in the faeces of an infected dog which are left on the ground.

Within 7 days a slug or snail will have moved across the faeces where upon digesting the matter the larvae will enter the snail or slug and the larvae will mature to the next larval stage.

From 10 to 17 days the infected larvae will enter a dog when that dog eats or licks an infected slug or snail or licks its trail.

Approximately after 3 days the larvae will have entered the dog’s abdomen from where the larvae will then penetrate the intestinal and migrate into the lungs through the bloodstream. Once in the lungs or respiratory tract, they will grow to become adult larvae.

The adults will produce eggs which will then hatch to release Lungworms in the lungs or respiratory tract which the dog will try and cough up and ingest in the process. The Lungworm will then pass through the dog in its faeces and the entire life-cycle will start again. The cycle averages about 5 -7 weeks.  The adults are thin worms of around 2.5cm length, whilst the larvae are microscopic.


The most common symptom is coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath as fluid builds up in lungs and even pneumonia. The secondary effects are weight loss and physical deterioration through becoming immobile.

These symptoms are caused by the larvae that reside in the lungs or trachea, hatching and causing reactions in the airways. As the dogs immunity develops, the subsequent accumulation of mucus and fluid results in the airways to the lungs being blocked.

The severity of symptoms will depend upon the age of the dog, whether or not it has already been infected and developed immunity and the larvae living in the airways.

It is possible that a minor infection may not cause any noticeable symptom, especially as a cough or change in behaviour may be blamed upon a myriad of other events by the owner. This is also why it is so important to have examined by a veterinarian and indeed why PREVENTION is vital.


 Lungworms are treatable with anti-parasitic (anthelminthic) medications. Oxibendazole is commonly used as a prophylactic against these and other nematode infestations, often termed wide-spectrum.

Commonly used medications include: Fenbendazole,  Albendazole,  Oxfendazole,  Ivermectin,  Moxidectin,  Praziquantel etc amongst others.

Medication will eradicate the worms over its course of treatment and clear the dog of Lungworms. There are severe cases where lung damage has been caused by the Lungworm, in which case further medication and antibiotics will be administered over 3 – 12 days.

Over the counter parasitic worm treatments are available by mainstream manufacturers which are dependable and do not need veterinary examination, however, most if not all will not treat Lungworm. If Lungworm suspicions can be diagnosed through visual examination, the only effective way to treat it, is to have a proper veterinary examination followed by prescribed medication specific for Lungworm.

It is the best policy in all medical matters to ensure correct diagnosis and that does often require a veterinary examination.

Although originating from the lungworm parasite, several different Lungworm parasites have been identified and need to be treated at times differently, often requiring a combination of various drugs to treat the parasite.




Tests to check if a dog has a lungworm infection include:

Physical examination (lung auscultation) and history

Chest X-rays

Faecal examination for eggs

Complete blood count (CBC)

xamination of fluid from lungs (tracheal wash)

Lungworm detector now available for immediate testing.

Many other tests which used to require invasive procedures and lengthy periods of time, have now become replaced by a drop of blood on a ‘test gadget’. Similar to human pregnancy tests which largely replaced lab tests in the 60’s. Hopefully now dog owners will have test results within hours.


As this parasite can be fatal it is important to consider prevention.

It is suggested that a visual check is made of the faeces to monitor for the presence of larvae. However, the larvae are microscopic and could be very easily missed.

Prevent your dog from eating or licking snails and slugs or licking the ground or grass where they may live.

Preventative products are available and with regular use prevention is simple to achieve.

Your veterinary surgeon is the best person to recommend a parasite control programme for your dog.

Always talk with your veterinarian because not all worming products are effective against the particular lungworm your dog may have.

Regular worming, regular checkups will all go towards helping your dog live a healthy life and help you from incurring high vet bills for treating a problem you should have prevented!

Look after your dog and PREVENT the problem before it starts

(Which is why it is important to clean up after your dog)