Many dog owners have a garden where their dog loves to play, but this seemingly safe haven can contain a hidden danger. Lungworm is a parasitic worm that can infect dogs, presenting a significant risk to health. But how could your pet become infected, can lungworm be treated successfully, and how can your pest controller help to keep your garden safe for your dog? Read on to find out more.
What causes lungworm?
Lungworm is a parasite that is carried by slugs and snails. If your dog eats one of the molluscs intentionally or accidentally, he risks infection. If left undiagnosed and untreated, lungworm can be fatal.
But would your dog really eat a snail or a slug? Yes, he would. Some dogs, especially puppies, are naturally curious and will happily munch on anything as they investigate new things. Some species of snails and slugs are tiny, meaning that they could easily be ingested accidentally when your dog plays with his toys, eats grass, or drinks from a puddle. Although the infection can't be spread directly from dog to dog, lungworm larvae are passed out in dog faeces. The larvae are then picked up by snails and the cycle of infection begins again.
Fortunately, lungworm cannot be transmitted directly by dogs to humans.
How can you tell if your dog has lungworm?
There are four primary areas of symptoms of lungworm to be aware of:
- becoming breathless and tiring easily
Poor blood clotting
- nose bleeds
- bleeding into the eye
- excessive bleeding from minor cuts
- poor appetite
- weight loss
How can lungworm be treated?
It's extremely important that you consult your vet immediately if your dog displays any or all of the above symptoms. Fortunately, the condition is easily and successfully treated using drug therapy, provided you seek prompt veterinary attention for your pet.
In multi-dog households, it's a good idea to have all your pets checked over by the vet, even if just one dog is presenting symptoms.
How can you prevent your pet from becoming infected?
Your vet will be able to recommend an appropriate worming treatment to give to your dog that will protect him against lungworm. In addition to this, there are other measures you can take at home to make your garden safer.
Don't leave your dog's toys, bones or chews out in the garden overnight. Snails and slugs are most active during the hours of darkness. Small snails and slugs can easily seek refuge inside a toy or chew, only to be swallowed by your dog when he picks it up the following day. Pick up all toys, bones and chews at the end of the day, check them for snails and slugs, and then store them safely inside a sealed container.
If you have a water bowl outside for your dog, this will be a prime target for moisture-loving snails and slugs. Change the water daily; empty the bowl at night and place it somewhere mollusc-proof until the following day.
Pick up any dog faeces from your garden and dispose of it in a sealed bin.
If your garden is heavily infested with slugs and snails, your local pest control services will be able to implement a pet-safe control programme for you. It's also worth noting that foxes can become infected by lungworm and could spread it through their faeces. If you have a large population of foxes in your area that regularly visit your garden, ask your pest controller for advice. As non-native Australian animals, foxes are not subject to wildlife protection laws, so they can be controlled if necessary.
Your dog could be at risk from lungworm if your garden has a high population of snails and slugs. Keep dog toys, water bowls etc. safely out of reach of invading molluscs overnight, clear up faeces and consult your vet if you think your dog may be infected.