How To Sniff Out If Your Dog Has Lungworm

What is Lungworm?

Lungworms are a parasitic worm that causes severe respiratory infections in dogs. The larvae can be found in slugs, snails, frogs, birds, rodents and even water.Dogs can also accidentally eat infected tiny slugs if they are on a toy or their fur.

How do dogs get lungworm?

Dogs thatspend a lot of time in the woods, love foraging in the undergrowth, or playing in piles of leaves have a higher risk of contracting this disease.

After your dog ingests the lungworm larvae in the infected host (e.g. slug, snail), the larvae move through their liver, blood vessels and heart, into the lung, where they mature into adults.After about 28 days the worms start to produce their own larvae in the bronchiole (lung airways), which are coughed upor swallowed by the dog.
Due to this movement through vital organs, the health consequences can be far-reaching; it can cause heart problems, breathing problems, bronchitis and pneumonia, hemorrhages in the lungs, liver, intestine, eyes and spinal cord. In mild cases, infection can remain unnoticed for some time but if left untreated, it can be fatal in severe cases.

Symptoms of lungworm in dogs 

Diagnosing lungworm can be difficult because the symptoms are not severe unless there are large numbers of larvae living in the dog’s system. The most apparent signs to look out for are:

  • coughing
  • breathing problems
  • gagging or vomiting
  • reluctance to exercise or labored breathing after short period
  • loss of appetite
  • if your dog gets a minor injury, like a small cut, it might bleed for longer

If you have any concerns, you should consult your veterinarian. They can examine a sample of the dog’s feces under the microscope to help diagnose lungworm, although this isn’t 100 per cent reliable as there aren’t always lungworms present in every sample.For a correct diagnosis, they may therefore also need to take chest X-rays, a complete blood count or an examination of fluid from the lungs.

Preventing lungworm in dogs 

  • Lungworm is nota contagious disease. However, dogs pass the larvae in their feces, which is then eaten by slugs and snails, which are then eaten by other dogs. That’s the reason why the disease can become so prevalent within dog communities very quickly.
  • Puppies may also become infected by their mother, when they are licked by or ingest feces from an infected mother.
  • If you spot slugs and snails on the trail, local parks or the yard, then be extra vigilant when out with your dog and always consult your veterinarian as soon as possible if your dog becomes unwell.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about lungworm prevention treatments at their regular check-up.
  • Dogs that have been previously infected with lungworms have a degree of immunity and may be able to fight off a re-infection if the load is not too great.However, a daily dose of probiotics (with prebiotic) will boost their immune system and help them fight off infections.


Clearly, if your furry friend loves the outdoors, they are potentially at higher risk but this doesn’t mean you have to curtail their (and your!) fun. Maybe sharpen them up on their recall command, so that you can stop them from getting into too much trouble in unchartered territory and just keep a watchful eye on their health, with regular check-ups.

Wishing you and your canine companions the best of health!




Helen Broadley & The FidoActive Team                                                      

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