Lungworm in Dogs

The lungworm infection in dogs affects the respiratory system and may be fatal. The infection is parasitic and may be caused by a number of worms such as Paragonimus kellicotti, Capillaria aerophilis, Osleri osleri or the Filaroides. The infection can be contracted from hosts that carry the parasites. The infection can be treated, but may be dangerous for puppies under the age of 6 months.  

Types of Lungworms

The lungworm is a generic term for several parasites, such as:

  • Paragonimus kellicotti
  • Capillaria aerophilis
  • Osleri osleri
  • Filaroides

These parasites will affect the respiratory tract and cause coughing.

Means of Transmission

The lungworm infection can be transmitted through various hosts such as:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Fish
  • Snails
  • Raccoons that may eat the snails and get in contact with dogs

Certain parasites such as Osleri osleri can be transmitted through birth from mother to puppies.

Lungworms may also be transmitted through dog bites, provided the dog that bites or is bitten carries the parasites.

Some parasites can be transmitted through contact with feces or the nasal secretions.

Symptoms of Lungworm

Coughing is present in most dogs affected by lungworms. However, this symptom is common for several other medical conditions such as respiratory infections or allergies.

A dog that is infected with lungworms may present other symptoms including:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nasal discharges
  • Lethargy
  • General state of weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Resistance to exercise and excessive coughing after performing more strenuous exercises
  • Swelling of the padding of the lungs, only if the dog develops an allergic reaction to the parasites

The symptoms will not appear for several weeks or even months, during the incubation period. The incubation period for each type of parasite is different.

Some dogs may not present any symptoms, as they will develop immunity to the parasite and fight off the infection. However, in puppies under the age of 6 months, the symptoms will be more serious.

Diagnosing Lungworms

The diagnosis procedure will consist of the following tests:

  • A physical examination
  • Lung auscultation, using the stethoscope
  • X-rays in the chest area, which can reveal if there are parasites in the lung area
  • Feces test, which may contain larvae of the parasites
  • A test of the nasal discharges, which may also contain the larvae

A heartworm test may also be needed, as the symptoms may easily point to the presence of heartworms.

Treatment Options for Lungworms

The treatment of lungworms is simple, being made up of a dewormer. The dewormer may be the same as the anti parasitic drugs used for other intestinal parasites such as hookworms or tapeworms.

If the pet develops an allergic reaction to the parasites, the dog will receive corticosteroids, which will reduce the inflammation of the padding of the lungs.

The dog should be tested periodically, to ensure that all the parasites are eliminated.