lungworm A. vasorum, also known as French heartworm, is carried by slugs
and snails. If your dog comes into contact with these common garden pests
there is a risk it could become infected.
Lungworms are parasitic nematode worms of the order Strongylida that infest the lungs of vertebrates. The name is used for a variety of different groups of nematodes, some of which also have other common names; what they have in common is that they migrate to their hosts' lungs or respiratory tracts, and cause bronchitis or pneumonia. The lungworm will gradually damage the airways or lung tissue by inciting an inflammatory reaction inside the tissue. Ultimately, the parasites survives and reproduce in the respiratory tissues. The category is thus more a descriptive than a precisely taxonomic one. The most common lungworms belong to one of two groups, the superfamily Trichostrongyloidea or the superfamily Metastrongyloidea, but not all the species in these superfamilies are lungworms.
The lungworms in the superfamily Trichostrongyloidea include several species in the genus Dictyocaulus which infest hoofed animals, including most common domestic species. Different species are found in cattle and deer (D. viviparus), donkeys and horses (D. arnfeldi), and sheep and goats (D. filaria). These animals have direct life-cycles. The lungworms in the superfamily Metastrongyloidea include species that infest a wider range of mammals, including sheep, goats and pigs but also cats and dogs. These include Metastrongylus apri, found in pigs; Oslerus osleri found in dogs; and Aelurostrongylus abstrusus found in cats. Some of these have indirect, and complex, life-cycles; several of them involve slugs or snails as intermediate hosts, where the habit of sniffing at slug trails, or even licking them, causes the parasite egg to enter the dog's respiratory tract. In the case of A. abstrusus the cat is normally infected by eating a bird or rodent that has itself eaten the original host.
Lungworm infections can result in a number of different signs which may easily be confused with other illnesses. If your dog is displaying any of the signs below, consult your veterinary surgeon immediately.
The general life cycle of a lungworm begins with an ingestion of infected larvae. The infected larvae then penetrate the intestinal wall where larvae migrate into the lungs through the bloodstream. The infected larvae reside in the lungs until the development into adult larvae. The eggs of the adult larvae hatch thus producing lungworm. These eggs that reside in the lungs are coughed up and then ingested back into the stomach and then into feces.
Lungworm infestations can cause significant distress to the animal but are usually treatable with drugs. Oxibendazole is commonly used as a prophylactic against these and other nematode infestations.
If infected with lungworm parasite, an anti-parasite drug must be administered.
In the case of a severe reaction, an anti-inflammatory drug of corticosteroids may be given for a brief period (3 to 10 days).
To treat tissue inflammation, Prednisone is usually given (5–10 days). However, there are some side effects such as increased urination or appetite.
The drug fenbendazole is usually administer to kill the parasite. It is very safe and does not harm the animal.
There are several different Lungworm parasites
that have been identified. Although they all originate from the lungworm
parasite, they are treated somewhat differently and requires a combination
of various drugs to treat the parasite:
An effective way to minimize the risk of spreading this disesase is to control the roaming and hunting of cats allowed outdoors.
It is very important to administer all veterinary prescribed medication and contact your veterinarian of any problems.
Repeat chest X-rays in 2 and 4 weeks after
treatment. Also, recheck a fecal sample to monitor for the presence of
larvae or ova in 2 to 4 weeks. This will confirm if the parasite is still
living inside the respiratory tissue.
Q. Is Angiostrongylus vasorum the only lungworm
that can infect my dog?
Q. Can my cat become infected with lungworm?
Q. Can one dog infect another dog?