What is lungworm?

What is lungworm?

Dog and parasite carriers

The lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a parasite that can cause serious health problems in dogs and can even be fatal if not diagnosed and treated.

Slugs and snails carry the lungworm larvae, and dogs can become infected when they accidentally (or purposefully) eat these common garden pests whilst rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or pick them up from their toys.

The lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum is now endemic throughout much of the UK.


Which dogs are at risk?

Dogs of all ages and breeds can become infected, but younger dogs seem to be more prone to picking up the parasite, and dogs who are known to eat slugs and snails are also considered at high risk.

Is lungworm in your area

Preventing lungworm

Preventative products are available and with regular use, prevention is easy to achieve; always speak to your vet because not all worming products are effective against this particular parasite.

Prevention & Treatment

Other types of lungworm

There are also other lungworms which can infect your dog. If you are concerned in any way that your dog is unwell, seek veterinary advice.

If you are concerned about any of the information you’ve read above or have any further questions, please speak to your veterinary surgeon.

The signs of lungworm

The signs of lungworm

Lungworm infections can result in a number of different signs, which may easily be confused with other illnesses, but improved detection methods including blood test and poo sampling mean more and more cases are now being confirmed.

If your dog is displaying any of the signs below, consult your veterinary surgeon immediately.

Dog signs

Some dogs don’t initially show visible signs of a lungworm infection, but there are a few things to look out for. If you are concerned, your veterinary surgeon can perform tests which may help detect if your dog is infected with the lungworm parasite.

Breathing problems
  • Coughing
  • Tiring easily
Poor blood clotting
  • Excessive bleeding from even minor wounds/cuts
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bleeding into the eye
  • Anaemia (paleness around the eyes and gums)
General sickness
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
Changes in behaviour
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures (fits)

If you are concerned about any of the information you’ve read above or have any further questions, please speak to your veterinary surgeon.

How lungworm spreads

Slugs, snails and the spread of lungworm

Snail on grass

Slugs and snails carry the larvae of the lungworm parasite and can infect dogs if ingested. Infection could also potentially occur after swallowing the slime of an infected slug.2

Some dogs will happily ignore a snail or slug, but many will want to investigate, perhaps even choosing to purposefully eat them. The size of some small slugs and snails means they can be accidentally swallowed when your dog plays with toys, drinks from puddles or water bowls, eats grass or rummages through the undergrowth.

Dogs have plenty of opportunities to come into contact with slugs and snails on walks. They hide in grass or under objects left in the garden, and seek out areas of moisture, such as outdoor water bowls, puddles and ponds. You can never be sure where they are lurking, but spring and autumn are peak times for slug and snail activity.

Slime Watch document

Snail behaviour

A recent study called The Slimewatch Report provided a unique insight into snail population, activity and behaviour using novel visual research techniques that include infra-red tracking and UV optics.

Read the Slimewatch Report

Other ways lungworm spreads

Infected dogs spread the parasite into the environment as the lungworm larvae is expelled in their poo, slugs and snails that come into contact with the poo will become infected, increasing the chances of other dogs becoming infected.

Foxes can become infected with lungworm, and have been implicated in the spread of the parasite across the country.

With more people travelling in the UK with their pets, and foxes roaming up to 50km, the risk of the parasite spreading around the country will continue.

Frogs can also carry the larvae, presenting a risk to dogs.


The scale of the problem

A study by researchers at the Royal Veterinary College found that one in five veterinary practices in the UK have reported at least one clinical case of Angiostrongylosis vasorum in a dog.3

“Lungworm is continuing to spread at an alarming rate in the UK and while dog owners are becoming more aware of the parasite, there is still a real lack of understanding as to the warning signs associated with the condition and that monthly prevention is easy to achieve. If you suspect your dog is eating slugs and snails it’s really important that you speak to a vet and ensure your dog is protected from the parasite.”

“Although the cause of this spread is not known for certain, increasing slug and snail numbers combined with increased pet movement and urbanisation of foxes are all likely to have played a significant part. These factors make the lungworm A. vasorum a year round rather than a seasonal threat.”

“The continued expansion of the range of the lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum will put increasing populations of dogs at risk.”

If you are concerned about any of the information you’ve read above or have any further questions, please speak to your veterinary surgeon.

References: 1. Morgan E. et al., Parasitology International (2009), 58:406-410, 2. Conboy et al. WAAVP 2015, 3. Kirk et al., Vet Record (2014), 175, 118

The slug & snail risk

The slug and snail risk

Snails on the grass

The Slimewatch study is the first of its kind in the UK, providing a unique insight into snail population, activity and behaviour using novel visual research techniques that include infra-red tracking and UV optics.

The data was analysed by Doctor of Evolutionary Ecology, Dave Hodgson, who lends his expertise and unique understanding of UK biodiversity and their interactions. The results showed the area covered by the average UK snail over a period of one week, noted the differences in speed and trends in habit, and provided a unique insight into how snails explore their territory and interact with their surroundings and one another.

If you are concerned about any of the information you’ve read above or have any further questions, please speak to your veterinary surgeon.

Prevention & treatment

Prevention & treatment

Treatment is available and can result in full recovery, but as this parasite can be fatal it is important to consider prevention. Preventative products are available and with regular use prevention is easy to achieve.

Your veterinary surgeon can recommend a parasite control programme for your dog. If your dog eats slugs and snails, but is not showing any symptoms, arrange a check up with your veterinary surgeon as a precaution.

Always speak to your vet because not all worming products are effective against this particular parasite.

Lungworm App

Your personal pet assistant

Pet Life is a free app to help you manage your pet’s life. Keep all their important details safe in one place, track their weight and get reminders for parasite protection treatments, vet appointments and other important dates in their life.

Available free for iOS and Android devices.

Find out more and get the app

Treatment

If your dog is diagnosed with lungworm, treatment is available from your vet and is easy to administer. Once diagnosed and treated, most dogs make a full recovery. The key to successful treatment is taking action early.

If you are concerned your dog has picked up, or is at risk from picking up a lungworm infection, speak to your veterinary surgeon without delay.


Spread the word

Many people aren’t aware of the risks that lungworm presents and how easy prevention is. Help spread the word, so we can keep all dogs safe.

Tell your friends on Facebook / Twitter

Other prevention tips

Pick up toys from the garden

Toys left in the garden overnight are exposed to slugs and snails, who are most active when the sun goes down. Smaller snails can reside in the crevices of toys or burrow underneath them and can be accidentally swallowed by dogs when playing with the toy. Be sure to pick up your dog’s toys at the end of each day and store them in a snail tight container.

Regularly clean water bowls

As our study showed, slugs thrive in damp conditions and will seek out any source of moisture they can. This makes a dog’s water bowl left outside an ideal target for slugs and snails. Make sure you change your dog’s water regularly, especially if the bowl sits outdoors.

Pick up the poo

The poo of a dog infected with lungworm will help spread the parasite to other slugs and snails, where it will develop. If two or more dogs share the same environment and one is found to be infected, the others may be at high risk due to exposure to the same surroundings. Foxes can also become infected with lungworm, and their increasing numbers have been implicated in the spread.

Multi-dog households

If you own a number of dogs and one becomes infected, make your veterinary surgeon aware as they may want to examine other dogs who share its environment.

If you are concerned about any of the information you’ve read above or have any further questions, please speak to your veterinary surgeon.

Risk to humans and cats

Risk to humans and cats

Girl sleeping with a cat

Lungworm & cats

Cats can become infected with another type of lungworm (Aelurostrongylus abstrusus). However, infections seem to be rare and the outcome tends to be not as severe as in dogs. If you are worried that your cat may be showing symptoms similar to those described for dogs (particularly coughing), speak to your vet for advice.

Lungworm & humans

The lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is not known to infect humans. However, dogs and cats can carry roundworms, which can cause diseases in people, so make sure you keep your pet’s parasite protection programme up-to-date. You can find out more about Roundworm at the It’s a jungle website.

If you are concerned about any of the information you’ve read above or have any further questions, please speak to your veterinary surgeon.

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If you’re concerned about any of the information you’ve read above or have any further questions please speak to your veterinary surgeon.

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Treatment is available and can result in full recovery, but as this parasite can be fatal it is important to consider prevention. Preventative products are available and with regular use prevention is easy to achieve. Always speak to your vet because not all worming products are effective against this particular parasite.

More about Treatment & Prevention »