Call to watch out for lungworm symptoms

Veronica Gillingham with Sweetie, who was saved from lungworm by Stamford Veterinary Centre. Photo: Alan Walters MSMP-28-04-15-aw003 EMN-150429-095654001
Veronica Gillingham with Sweetie, who was saved from lungworm by Stamford Veterinary Centre. Photo: Alan Walters MSMP-28-04-15-aw003 EMN-150429-095654001

A woman hopes to warn fellow dog owners about the dangers of lungworm after her own pet nearly died from the parasite.

Veronica Gilligham was shocked when she woke to see her beloved dachshund Sweetie coughing up blood one morning.

She quickly rushed the dog to Stamford Veterinary Centre in Great Casterton, where vet David Cawte diagnosed a lungworm infection.

Sweetie was kept in for three days and given plenty of medication to get rid of the parasite. Thankfully Sweetie made a full recovery and is back to her energetic best. But Veronica, who lives near Sewstern, wants to make other dog owners aware of lungworm.

She said: “It’s a very dangerous disease and people need to be aware.

“I hadn’t heard of it before and I just had to leave it up to the vet. I had to hope that he would get Sweetie through it.

“Hopefully she will come clear of the distress. She’s doing very well. She’s a little bit fatter but she’s a lot better.”

The lungworm parasite can be fatal to dogs if not treated. Slugs and snails carry the lungworm larvae, and dogs can become infected when they eat the creatures themselves, or grass that they have left slime on.

Mr Cawte, who successfully treated Sweetie, said: “Just because the dog gets lungworm it does not mean it will have problems. But they can be fatal. The risk is relatively small but the consequences are great.”

Mr Cawte said some worming treatments could kill the lungworm parasite. Until recently only two brands could prevent an infection, but more have recently come on the market.

“They have to be used more frequently than other wormers and you have to get the right one,” he said.

Mr Cawte said lungworm could be prevented with prescription medication.

“If you are worried, see your vet,” he added.

According to pet care charity Blue Cross, once ingested lungworm larvae grow inside the dog. Adult lungworms move through their body to live in their heart and blood vessels.

This can cause heart problems, breathing problems and pneumonia, but in mild cases infection can remain unnoticed.

After about 28 days the worms start to produce their own larvae which can lead to serious problems.

It can cause haemorrhages in the lungs, liver, intestine, eyes and spinal cord but also pretty much anywhere in the body. If left untreated, it can be fatal in severe cases.

It is particularly common in southern England and Wales.