Know About Lungworm
Lungworm is a parasite that lives in the blood vessels supplying the lungs of animals like foxes, dogs, and cattle. The worm lives in the arteries or the blood vessels leading to the heart and lays eggs that hatch there. These worms live in the lungs of the dogs and cause all sorts of respiratory problems. The infection causes more serious problems later on. Lungworm is contagious and is infested easily by coming in contact with the larvae.
There are different types of lungworms that affect the dogs from different parts of the world. Oslerus osleri is a parasitic nematode that is seen in USA, Australia, France, Great Britain, India, New Zealand, and South Africa. This parasite lives in the trachea of the dog. Other parasites are Angiostrongylus vasorum and Dirofilaria immitis, both these affects the lungs of the victim. The parasite Capillaria aerophila is mostly seen in foxes but also reported to affect dogs, lives in the sinuses, bronchi, trachea and nasal cavity of the victim.
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How the dogs get infected with Lungworms
Snails and slugs are the carriers of this worm. When the carrier snail or slug comes in contact with the dog or even when the dog happens to lick their trail, the larvae that are spread on the path enter the dog’s body. Even licking the toys that came in contact with the parasitic larvae or eating the grass, or drinking infected puddle water, all can cause infection in the dogs. An infected dog can spread the parasite to snails and slugs that then carry it and then passes it on to other dogs. The lungworm larvae reach the lung through the blood. When the dog has respiratory discomfort, it coughs up the larvae and later swallows it down. This moves out of the body through the feces. When other animals come in contact with this, they get infected.
The Lungworm lifecycle
The lungworm larvae are ever ready to enter another body to hatch. When the victim comes in contact with it, they easily enter the bodies through the saliva and reach the gut. From there it enters the blood stream in turn and later to the lymphatic system. From there it reaches its destination of the blood vessel that carries blood to the lungs. There it settles down and grows into the adult form.
A larva takes about 28 to 40 days to complete its lifecycle and to start producing its own larvae. The adult parasite lays eggs that hatch in the blood. The larvae are released and they penetrate the lung walls to enter the small air pockets in the lungs. This blocks the air flow in the lungs that disrupts the breathing process.
The larvae still travel up and reaches the top part of the lungs and make the dog choke and cough up. When the dog swallows this, the larvae move back down to the stomach and later passed out through the excreta. From there the cycle starts again by coming in contact with another dog or animal.
What are the symptoms of lungworms?
The main symptoms are the difficulty in breathing and other respiratory problems.
- The dog seems to be coughing more often. Sometimes there will be blood when the pet coughs.
- The discomfort makes the dog reluctant to participate in any kind of exercises. Even if it is willing to do, it will get tired very easily.
- In case of any external injury the dog will bleed longer, even if it is a small injury.
- The dog may bleed through the nose and eyes also. The blood clotting is also abnormal and does not clot easily and the poor thing bleeds all over. This will also lead to the anemic condition.
- The dog will show vomiting and diarrhea.
- There might be a loss of appetite and a sudden weight loss is also observed. The pet will suffer fatigue.
- Sometimes the infected dog might show signs of depression and changes in behavior as well. In rare cases, the dogs might have seizures or fits also.
- The larvae penetrate the lung walls and it might cause pneumonia or bronchitis in severe infection. It is caused by the damage done on the lining tissue of the wall.
- The young dogs are more prone to lungworm infection than the older ones.
- The infection and the symptoms may last for months or in the worst case, for years. In severe infection, the dog might suffer hemorrhage that can cause sudden death.
Lungworms Diagnostic methods
The diagnosis of lungworm is fairly difficult. The only way of detection is to examine the feces. But it may not necessarily carry the larvae in it. But the absence of larvae in the feces cannot conclude that the dog is not infected with the parasite. It is the double way. The symptoms are much more reliable in this case. The symptoms start slowly and may increase as it goes. But consulting the veterinarian is better if you have any doubt about your pet having a parasitic infection. If your dog has the habit of eating snails, then if there is a doubt about infestation you should definitely consult the vet. Snails and slugs are the carriers of this parasite.
Treatment For Dog Lungworms
The only treatment possible is to kill the worms. It is simple and uncomplicated. Necessary medications are given for killing the lungworms. The commonly used medications are Fenbendazole, albendazole, oxfendazole, ivermectin, moxidectin, praziquantel, levamisole etc. These are medications that wipe out the worms and clear the infection. In case of secondary infections caused by the damage on the lung walls, other antibiotics are prescribed. Adopting some preventive measures and seeking the assistance of natural remedies are also beneficial.
The treatment may last for a maximum of 2 months. The duration depends on how effective the anti-parasitic drugs given are. Sometimes a surgical removal of the parasitic nodules may be necessary.
Natural remedies For Lungworms
There are no specific natural remedies found for dog lungworms. But there are a few mentions about the same for cattle. Talk to your veterinarian before starting the natural remedies and also during the treatment to know about any problems that might arise unexpectedly.
- Garlic can foil the hatching of the lungworm eggs. Try giving the pet some garlic juice or add garlic powder in its diet. Giving garlic capsules also serves good. The antimicrobial property of the garlic helps here.
- Carrot oil from the flowering part underground contains compounds that can remove some types of lungworms. Make a herbal tea with the underground flower of carrot add a few cumin seeds and make the pet drink at least some amount of this tea.
- The papaya latex also can prevent the growth of the parasite lungworm.
Dogs Lungworms Preventive Measures
Since the lungworm infection occurs by coming in contact with the larvae from outside, mostly, knowing where the contamination might be and also keeping the outside of your homes clean and hygienic helps prevent the infection. The snails and slugs are the carriers which are prevalent in the humid and cold climate; chances of infection are higher during the winter season. It would be better if you do not take your pets for a stroll in damp areas and where there are stale and stagnant contaminated water existing.
- The dog feces carry the larvae or eggs that are taken by the snail or slugs. In order to avoid that, always take a plastic bag with you to clean after your dog and keep the surroundings cleaner.
- Please note that there are definite preventive ‘medications or tablets’ against lungworm. The only way is to avoid situations that can lead to infections.
- Discourage the dog from sniffing or licking as there may be carrying organisms on their trails.
- Keep the dog's toys outside, clean and hygienic after each play. They also might carry the larvae on them.
- Always provide clean water for the dog to drink. Avoid feeding them at public places or water from outside source.
- Oral vaccination is available against one or two parasites but not for all. But the vaccination cannot make the pet immune but can only reduce the extent of the infection. It helps the animal to excrete the larvae.
Not all snails and slugs are carriers of lungworm, only the ones that have the parasite can cause the infections. By simply eating snails will not result in the infections, only if your dog happens to come up on a carrier can cause problems. But if the dog has the habit of eating snails, then the chances of infection is higher. The infection can be moderate to severe and the treatment success is dependent on this fact and the effectiveness of the medicine on the animal. But if the pet is suffering any secondary infection the recovery time may be prolonged.