Slugs and Snails
Some dogs might not
eat slugs and snails on purpose, but they may do so by
accident – for example when a slug or snail is sitting on a
bone or a favourite toy!
Canine angiostrongylosis is a life-threatening disease of dogs caused by a very sophisticated worm. The worm is called Angiostrongylus vasorum, often referred to as lungworm or French heartworm due to its discovery in France in 1866.
The worm was first reported in Ireland in the early 1970s, after which it was carried to the UK in greyhounds.
Vets are now reporting significantly more cases of dogs with the disease than in the past years. As yet it is unclear why there has been an increase, but the worm is known to favour warmer temperatures – something we seem to be experiencing lately. Foxes can also be infected, and the increase in urban fox populations might be another reason why vets are seeing more cases in dogs, as infected foxes spread worm larvae in their poo.
Infestations of this lungworm often result in death if not diagnosed, or if left untreated.
Early diagnosis by a vet, followed by appropriate treatment will, fortunately, usually lead to a full recovery.
There are many symptoms to watch out for, although an infected dog may equally appear totally healthy. Persistent coughing, reluctance to exercise, depression, weight loss, fits, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, paralysis, behavioural changes and persistent bleeding from even insignificant cuts are all possible signs.
Dogs under the age of two appear to be more susceptible than older dogs, even though dogs of all ages and breeds can be affected.
The wide range of symptoms can easily be confused with other illnesses so contacting your vet is important in case any of the above signs have been noticed.
For this lungworm to infect a dog it has to pass through an intermediate host and then be eaten by the dog. In this instance, the intermediate hosts are slugs and snails or even frogs! Dogs do not normally eat slugs or snails willingly, although some might unwittingly do so by eating grass or anything else they choose to eat while outside. Outside water bowls or the practice of feeding dogs outside might increase the risk of them eating a slug or snail.
If you suspect your dog may have eaten a slug or a snail, or habitually does so, go and see your vet without delay. He or she will be able to test very quickly whether your dog is infected. Fortunately, there is treatment available for this condition which your vet will be able to prescribe.