A vets in Cumbria is warning dog owners to be extra vigilant following an outbreak of the deadly parasite lungworm.
Several cases of the lungworm parasite, which can cause life-threatening symptoms in dogs, have been confirmed in the North West this year.
And dog walkers heading to the Lakes have been warned to be extra vigilant following a case which left a young dog fighting for her life.
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Lola, a five-month-old French Bulldog, was brought into Old Hall Vet practice in Appleby-in-Westmorland by her worried owners. She was increasingly losing weight and developed a persistent cough.
Helen Gould, Veterinary Surgeon at Old Hall Vets explains: “Lola was admitted to our practice as she had developed a nasty cough over the course of a week. We carried out X-Rays and prescribed her medication, but she started to lose weight, despite being a puppy and became increasingly unwell. It was a confusing case for us at first but after carrying out blood tests, we discovered Lola was suffering from the effects of lungworm infection.”
Slugs and snails carry the lungworm larvae and dogs can become infected when they accidentally or deliberately ingest these common garden pests whilst rummaging through fields and undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls or possibly even after swallowing their slime.
Lola’s owner said: “It was very distressing to see Lola become skinnier and her breathing became more and more rapid, especially as she was so young she was very vulnerable and became very ill. I just wanted her to get better. When I found out she had contracted lungworm, I was shocked as I only thought lungworm was present in the south of England and not in Cumbria.”
The disease can affect dogs of any age, but puppies are especially at risk, and dogs, including puppies, have lost their lives as a result of lungworm infection.
Initial signs of lungworm are vague, and easily confused with other illnesses, including weight loss, breathing difficulties, coughing (especially bringing up blood), lethargy, poor blood clotting/persistent bleeding, general sickness, circling, stomach and back pain, poor appetite, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Lungworm is often a chronic disease, lasting months, even years. However, it will occasionally cause sudden death. Even changes in behaviour, such as depression, tiring easily, and seizures can indicate infection, with mild cases often remaining totally unnoticed by owners.
To make a definite diagnosis, a vet will need to take blood and stool samples and sometimes chest X-rays.
Find out if any cases of lungworm have been reported in your area by visiting the lungworm map: www.lungworm.co.uk/map