Lungworm

  • 14/05/2010
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Lungworms are a type of parasite that can infect the respiratory tract. There are several different parasites that have been identified including: Paragonimus kellicotti, Capillaria aerophilia, Filaroides and Osleri spp.

Outdoor pets in certain geographic areas of North America and elsewhere are predisposed to respiratory parasites. Infection typically occurs from exposure to the hosts that carry the parasite.

The lung fluke (Paragonimus) is found near lakes that harbor the intermediate host (crayfish and snails) or the raccoons that eat them. Dogs that hunt and eat raccoon meat may be at risk.

The tracheal (windpipe) worm Osleri osleri is directly transmitted from the mother to pup.

Clinically important infections occur most often in younger animals, those less than two years old, that are heavily infested.

lungworm.jpgThe symptoms for lungworm infections depend on the specific parasite, the severity of the infection and the host response. Some pets with mild infections are normal, while other pets will exhibit a cough, lethargy, exercise intolerance and weight loss.

What to Watch For

Coughing is the most common sign of lungworm infection.

Diagnosis

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations. Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize lungworms, and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:
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  • Complete medical history and physical examination including lung auscultation (stethoscope examination)

  • Thoracic radiographs (chest X-rays)

  • Fecal examination must be done to check for ova or larvae. A special technique called the Baermann technique may be required.

  • Examination of respiratory secretions should be done to check for ova or larvae. These secretions may be obtained by a procedure called transtracheal or endotracheal wash.

  • A heartworm test should be performed to exclude this disease.

    Treatment

  • If lungworms are diagnosed, an anti-parasite drug must be given. Often these are the common "dewormers" used for roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms in dogs.

  • If there is severe reaction to the parasite, an anti-inflammatory dose of corticosteroids may be needed for a brief period, usually three to 10 days.
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    Home Care and Prevention

    In addition to careful observation, you may be asked to medicate your pet for this condition. This can be a challenge in some cases and you should ask for help at your veterinarian's office if you need directions regarding proper medication techniques. A variety of medications may be prescribed depending on the exact parasite identified and are in the form of liquids or pills.

    The only effective preventative is to control the roaming and hunting of dogs allowed out-of-doors. In the case of Osleri osleri infection, the bitch (mother) should also be treated for the tracheal worm.
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    Comments (2)

    Jillie
    Said this on 21/04/2011 At 08:08 pm

    My Rottie had lungworm 4 years ago.  Unfortunately at the time I had a useless vet who did not bother examining him.  He just said it could be a build up of mucus and prescribed some kind of powder (apparently used on horses) to clear it.  This went on for almost a year, backwards and forwards to the vet, again not once did he examine him.  As the coughing and choking got worse I took him back and insisted on xrays.  It turned out my dog had lungworm which had filled one of his lungs completely and they were working there way into the other lung.  He then prescribed Panacur, this cleared it up for a while, but it came back, another course of Panacur did the job, but soon after he became very ill and after lots of tests was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus.  A year later he died.  I have done some research and I think the Panacur caused the SLE.

    So please, if your dog shows any signs of lungworm; Blue first started dry coughing, then get it treated asap.

    Greg
    Said this on 24/02/2012 At 01:19 pm

    My dog had an occasional cough - especially after exercise. She was less keen to go on long walks which I put down to older age. Then in the summer of 2011 I noticed her left thyroid was slightly enlarged and her breathing was rather rapid. The vet said her chest x-ray was conclusive she had secondary lung cancer and gave her 2 months - I was devasted. I went to a homeopathic vet who also said the chest x-ray was conclusive - we started homepathic treatment for cancer. However the 2 months came and went and 6 months later she was still doing well. I had heard that lungworm can show up 'tumour like' granulomas in the lungs. I went to another vet who clearly did not believe me, but gave her the lungworm treatment. After 5 days of Panacur she went off her food and her breathing got progressively worse. The vet said it was secondary lung cancer probably from a thyroid carcinoma - but did not do any tests - he said it was conclusive. A steriod injection improved her appetite and general well being for a while but that wore off and then she deteriorated further - she could hardly eat or drink and developed ascites and rapid laboured breathing and collapsed in the park during a walk - I asked the vet if it could be caused by lungworm - the vet said no - she had been treated for lungworm and it was late stage cancer from the thyroid, she could have liver failure and recommended euthanasia - she said if I was to take her home she would only get worse and we could have a crisis in the night. We made the heartbreaking decision to put her to sleep - however, on the way home, in tears, I began to have niggling doubts in my mind - why had she suddenly deteriorated following the treatment for lungworm? I have subsequently discovered that this worm can migrate to the thyroid gland and other organs and the symptoms my dog had could have been due to post-treatment complications - it just seemed too much of a coincidence. Of course I will never know for sure - but knowing that there is a chance that she might have had lungworm afterall and had the vet given her suitable anti-inflammatory medication and diuretics she might still be alive - it's heartbreaking thinking about it - it is still very raw - she only died two weeks ago. The vet had asked whether I wanted a post mortem but I was too upset and thought I might feel even worse if I had confirmation that a mistake had been made. I miss her so much.

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