Prepare for unexpected vet bills

What are Lungworms?

Slugs and snails are the carrier of lungworm larvae. Infection of your dog can occur by accidental or purposeful ingestion of the gastropod, and also by the transmission of larvae through the feces or saliva of infected dogs. Frogs are also believed to carry the parasite. Though death by lungworm is not common, it is known to be a risk as the result of infection. Younger dogs are more often to be found infected, and it has been noted that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are represented the most frequently in studies.

The scientific name for lungworm is angiostrongylus vasorum. Infection with this parasitic nematode can present with a number of complications. Studies have shown the lungworm to be the cause for inflammatory reactions in the lungs, with severe consequences for many areas of the canine body, including congestive heart failure.

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

Compare plans
advertisement image

Lungworms Average Cost

From 16 quotes ranging from $300 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Lungworms in Dogs

Though it has been noted that some dogs may be asymptomatic when infected with lungworm, two signs of infection that are most apparent are a chronic cough and respiratory strain upon exercise. Other symptoms may be:

  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • General malaise

In cases where the infection has progressed, severe respiratory distress and heart failure can occur. With migration of the larvae in various stages including adult lungworm throughout the body, damage to the brain, spinal cord, organs and more will be displayed with varying symptoms, according to the location of the infection.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Lungworms in Dogs

The lungworm is able to enter and multiply in the host, which is your dog, upon ingestion of third stage larvae. The third stage larvae then penetrate the gut wall and develop in the lymph nodes before entering the circulatory system. Adults of both sexes can then be found in the pulmonary circulatory system and the right ventricle. The worm will mature in the lungs, finally mating and lodging in the capillaries. With advanced stages of infection, it is often discovered that the lungs contain inflammatory nodules filled with eggs and larvae. Adult nematodes are seen in the capillaries, as well as the pulmonary arteries of dogs in the advanced state of disease. Cases are most often found in winter and spring, due to the abundance of gastropods found in the summer, with the disease developing over the next few months.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Lungworms in Dogs

Diagnosis of angiostrongylus vasorum is not easily reached. Because of the absence of definitive clinical signs, dogs may remain infected and untreated, which can, unfortunately, lead to advanced degrees of disease severity. Dogs with this infection may present with signs of bleeding disorders and heart or lung disease. However, coughing is considered a sign of lungworm infection, which will be indicative to the veterinarian as to how best proceed in the diagnostic phase of the visit.

If the veterinarian does suspect that your pet in infected with lungworm, she will ask for a stool sample to be brought to the clinic. Several samples of fecal matter must be analyzed due to the fact that the presence of larvae in the feces may be intermittent. This diagnostic tool is considered the best option, with the procedure being called the Baermann test. The test is usually read after 8 hours, but in heavily infected dogs, results can show as positive after as little as 30 minutes.

X-rays may show lesions on organs or density in areas of the lungs, and blood work may show signs of anemia and clotting disorders. A bronchoscopy may be necessary in order to examine the washings for evidence of white blood cells, eggs, and larvae.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Lungworms in Dogs

The treatment of lungworm in dogs will depend on the stage of the infection. Canines in the advanced phase of the illness will have a lower prognosis of recovery due to the possibility of damage to the heart and other organs such as the pancreas and kidneys, as a result of the presence of the lungworm throughout the body. However, success has been attained, and dogs with severe infection are given medication to destroy the lungworm and are then treated with corticosteroids to heal damaged lungs. The use of a bronchodilator is sometimes used in cases of pneumonia. At times, surgery may be needed in order to remove nodules.

An infection caught early can be treated with medication alone; however, it must be noted that the treatment is extensive, with the prescription being given four (4) times minimum, one week apart. Treatment may be to be repeated, or continued for two months.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Recovery of Lungworms in Dogs

Dogs who have gone through treatment for severe infection of lungworm will have a longer recovery period than a dog where treatment was given in the early days of infestation. Depending on the severity of symptoms at the time of diagnosis, and the advancement of the lungworm infection, most pet owners can expect a positive outcome for their dog.

In the case of a heavily infected pet who may have shown signs of respiratory distress, recovery will include rest, medication and perhaps a bronchodilator. Expectorants and diuretics may be used post-treatment as well to combat the effects of the lungworm on the body. Shortness of breath may occur throughout the healing process.

Monthly year-round treatment may be prescribed to prevent reinfection.

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Lungworms Average Cost

From 16 quotes ranging from $300 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

arrow-up-icon

Top

Lungworms Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

Two Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

I just saw there were snails in my dog food container should i be concerned i dnt know if she ate one

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If she has not showed any signs of GI upset, she is likely okay. It would be best to throw out the dog food, and have her seen by a veterinarian if she is vomiting or having diarrhea.

Oct. 8, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Sonny

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Loss Of Appetite
Lethargy

My dog got deworm treatment about 2 weeks ago after being diagnosed with lungworm. He is still coughing, and is not eating at this point. How long should it take for this treatment to kick in?

April 7, 2018

Sonny's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Sonny's degree of respiratory disease will depend on the number of lungworms that he was infected with. If he had a heavy infestation, the dying worms can cause their own problem and reactions - if he isn't eating and is still coughing, he should be rechecked by your veterinarian to see if he needs any further treatment.

April 7, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

Lungworms Average Cost

From 16 quotes ranging from $300 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

advertisement image
ask a vet placeholder
Need pet insurance?