As pet owners, we are constantly on the lookout for things that can harm our beloved fur babies. But, sometimes, things that seem harmless can actually be fatal to our dogs. Something as simple as a small snail could cause lifelong diseases, like lungworm, that could kill your pup.
In this article, we will discuss the dangers of lungworm caused by snails, symptoms to watch out for, and how to prevent your dog from falling ill.
What Is Lungworm?
Lungworm is a parasite caused by slugs or snails, that can infect your dog and become deadly. Also known as French heartworm, lungworm can be contracted by eating slugs or snails, ingesting grass or sticks with “slime trail,” chewing on toys that have come in contact with slugs or snails, or drinking from infected pools of water.
Once a dog has contracted the parasite, lungworm larvae will grow inside the dog as it reaches maturity. The lungworm will then migrate throughout their body, eventually living in their heart and blood vessels.
Once the larvae has matured for 3 – 4 weeks, they will begin to produce larvae of their own, spreading the parasite throughout the dog’s body.
The Dangers Of Lungworm
Lungworm can cause serious health problems, including hemorrhages in the lungs, liver, intestine, eyes, and spinal cord. The most common side effects of lungworm are pneumonia and bronchitis. These illnesses are caused by the worms irritating the bronchial tubes and lining of the lungs as they “make their way out.”
Lungworm is generally seen in dogs under the age of two years old, and the condition may become chronic, lasting months or years.
Similar to other harmful parasites, lungworm can also be contracted by coming into contact with infected feces. This means that dogs, who are carrying the parasite, can spread the infection to other dogs through their poop. Pet parents should be mindful of this when letting their dogs sniff around in areas where other dogs have relieved themselves.
Symptoms To Watch For
There are a few symptoms to watch out for if you believe your dog may have come into contact with slugs or snails:
- Weight loss
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty breathing and becoming tired quickly
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Poor apetite
- Regular bleeding – this presents itself as nose bleeds, excessive bleeding from wounds, anaemia and bleeding into the eye. This is caused because the lungworm infection hinders the blood’s ability to clot.
- Behavior changes and general illness/fatigue, depression.
- This infestation can also lead to fits/seizures
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, a visit to your veterinarian is recommended.
Protecting Your Dog From Lungworm
Protecting your dog from lungworm is important and consists of a few simple steps.
- Dispose of your dog’s feces in a proper, hygienic manner
- Discourage your dog from interacting with slugs or snails
- Practice extra caution when visiting areas known to be populated by snails and slugs with your dog (ex. inspect sticks for slime trails, etc.)
- Educate yourself on areas with high risk of lungworm
- Speak with your vet about preventative or spot treatments if you believe your dog is at risk of lungworm
Cats are also susceptible to lungworm, as they often contract the parasite by feeding off of infected birds. So, be sure to also watch your feline friends for the symptoms listed above!