Lungworm in Dogs


Dr. Emily McAteer, Dublin Holistic Vet, emailed me an alert over the weekend regarding lungworm in dogs. I trust her opinion 100% when it comes to the prevalence of critters (she’s no scaremongerer) so thought I’d repost what she sent below, in case it helps some of you. I have added in some bits in (in brackets).

North Dublin seems to be experiencing an increased risk of lung worm in that there have been some confirmed cases. They are there if you look for them. My policy, since having seen and treated a case is to;

1) Be aware.

For more about lungworm awareness check out this nice short article on lungworm in dogs by Woodland Trust. In short, it seems to be increasing, nobody knows why though possibly related to the increase in urban foxes who are a vital link in the chain.

2) Seek veterinary attention if any unexplained symptoms are seen, which can be numerous and varied- ranging from a chesty cough, snotty nose and respiratory issues to lethargy and seizures. ESPECIALLY if the dog is inclined to eat slugs and snails.

Interestingly, Cavalier King Charles, Cocker and Springer Spaniels, and Staffordshire Bull and Jack Russell terriers seem to become iller, but nobody is sure why.

lungworm life cycle diagram
courtest of

3) Ensure your dog is in tip-top health: raw fed, not over-vaccinated, not over-treated for parasites.

4) If concerned and your dog eats snails there is a reliable antibody test which is designed for diagnosis but could be used for screening. I’m not sure how long the antibodies persist. ie if a dog has once been infected they may always have them, also its a yes / no test, not a titre. If the test is positive you could always do a 3 day pooled poo worm egg count also.

Adult lung worms can live in the heart for some time without the larvae migrating and when they do they can cause a lot of damage. You are not always going to see eggs in poo so the antibody test is more reliable. If antibodies exist then I think milbemax is your least harmful option of wormers. I have moved to it from my old favourite drontal if I have to worm.

The Equine Research Centre of Ireland will test your dogs for lungworm. They do this via a faecal test as, while the adults reside in respiratory passages, their eggs are coughed up, swallowed and passed out with the faeces. Normally the ERC charge only €14 to test for gut worms (an absolute steal, recommend for all dogs perhaps twice a year, as opposed to blindly ramming in nasty chemical parasite control in dogs with no infections, more about worms in dogs here) but for lungworm it is slightly more complicated, requiring three faecal samples. Contact the ERC for more info for this simple test. I recommend it for slug and snail eating dogs.

At this point, I would normally recommend something natural to help control risk but for lungworm, I know of nothing truly effective, yet. Herbs can reach stuff in the gut very easily but getting to the lungs effectively is another kettle of fish. If I hear of anything after posting this I will, of course, amend the article. Awareness, as Emily states, is the best course of action with this one.

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Dr. Conor Brady

After a doctorate studying the effects of nutrition on the behaviour and gut morphology of animals, five years with Guide Dogs as a trainer and supervisor, some success on Dragons Den with the finest raw dog food company and the last few years both writing and speaking on canine nutrition and health, I can say with some confidence that the pet food and drug industry cares not a jot for the health of your pet.