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Slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails don't mix!

This interesting article has been kindly written by Valerie Beney (Lavehnke). We reproduce her article for you.

Having recently lost an otherwise very healthy 11 months old Cavalier King Charles puppy bitch to heartworm/lungworm, I have been asked to write this article to alert you to the importance of regular worming, particularly in the light of the lessons I have learned through this sad and truly horrible experience.

Betsy was a very healthy and lively puppy who started to cough about six weeks before she died. I took her to the vet and the first suspicion was that a virus or, less likely, kennel cough was causing her to cough. She was given antibiotics to see if these would do the trick. The coughing didn't seem to improve but I thought that the tablets may take a little time to work so was not too perturbed as Betsy was still running around like a lunatic with her brother.

One morning when I got up and went to greet the dogs I was concerned to see that Betsy had lost the use of her back legs and that one of her eyes was very inflamed. Betsy was then rushed to the vet where, sadly, she died later that day. From the post mortem that was done the vet found that Betsy had died from a condition called Angiostrongylus Vasorum, more commonly known as Lungworm or French Heartworm. Masses of parasitic worms were found in Betsy's Pulmonary Artery thus blocking the flow of blood from her heart to her lungs. As well as severe affects on the heart and lungs Angiostrongylus Vasorum can also cause serious clotting problems which in Betsy's case had happened as she was found also to have suffered cranial bleeding.

Dogs usually get heart/lungworms by eating slugs and snails, (and maybe even frogs), which are harbouring the parasites which later develop into worms. Because slugs and snails form part of a fox's staple diet a dog can also become infected with parasitic worms by eating and/or licking the faeces of an infected fox as well as that of an infected dog. In my experience it is not uncommon for a puppy to be found with a snail in its mouth. Therefore, there is a need to be extra vigilant with puppies when you know that you have slugs and snails in your area.

The fact that Betsy coughed prior to her death didn't naturally lead to a diagnosis of Angiostrongylus Vasorum as this is only one of a number of illnesses which can cause coughing. My vet recommends the use of faecal samples in screening for the parasite but because infected dogs do not always expel parasites in their faeces several tests may need to be undertaken before it can be said that a suspect dog definitely isn't infected by lung/heartworm.

The lesson that I have learned through this traumatic event is that it is vital to undertake a regular worming routine with an effective wormer, agreed with your Vet. Based on personal and my vet's research I have opted to use Panacur Liquid on unweaned puppies and, thereafter, a wormer called Milbemax (tablets) which is only obtainable on prescription from your vet. The frequency of worming needs to be discussed with your vet as different regimes may need to be adopted depending upon individual circumstances. My decision, backed up by my Vet, is to worm young pups prior to eating solid food at intervals directed by Intervet, the makers of Panacur. Once the pups are on solid food I intend worming them with Milbemax (made by Novartis) once a month until the pups are 6 months old. Thereafter, I shall worm the pups as my other dogs with Milbemax either on a monthly or 3 monthly basis.

Finally, if anyone wants to talk to me regarding this article then you can ring me on 020 86426710. Also if you have access to the internet there is a very interesting article re heartworm written by Park Vets which you can view at www.parkvets.com/clientinformation-angiostrongylus.html

This article is Valerie's personal experience and you should always seek advice from your own vet.

Carol Martin (AACC)
Edmiston House
Nethermill
DUMFRIES
DG1 3NG
Tel: 01387 860322

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