Acorn Veterinary Centre Vet, Dylan Payne, has issued a warning to dog owners after a beloved family dog almost lost her life from deadly lungworm disease.
Eight-year-old Labrador, Boo, is recovering from lungworm which is linked to parasites found in common garden slugs and snails. Ingested, the tiny parasites make their way to a dog’s heart and lungs and can prove fatal. Lungworm is usually found in the South of England but with weather becoming warmer in the North, more incidents of the disease have been found.
With very few reported cases of lungworm in the north west, Dylan is now urging all dog owners to be aware of the symptoms of the lungworm and to prevent the disease through regular worming.
Dylan said, “Lungworm is not very common and only affects dogs and not people, but as the climate gets warmer, we do expect to see more cases.
“Typical symptoms of the infection in dogs include coughing, loss of appetite, losing weight and becoming generally unwell. Fortunately, lungworm is a preventable disease and prevention really is the best approach.
“The best thing to do is to talk to your vet about methods to protect your dog through regular worming and if you are concerned in anyway about your dog’s health, do get them checked out.”
It is believed that in this case, Boo may have picked the condition up by eating windfall apples which she is known to scavenge while out on a walk. Owner Mike Cockburn from West Kirby, said the first he really knew there was a problem was when he took Boo to Acorn Veterinary Centre after she started to rapidly lose weight.
Mike, a senior manager with Wirral Borough Council, had been away for the weekend with his wife Lisa and their two children, Kieron, 13, and 11-year-old Sophie, and left Boo and their other Labrador Bessie with his sister. It was when he went to collect his two pets, he noticed that Boo was quieter than normal and looked a little slimmer.
“We have had Boo since she was a pup and like all Labradors, she has an insatiable appetite. But she suddenly couldn’t eat properly which was strange – she was just licking her food and couldn’t seem to chew or crunch anything hard. We changed her food to chicken and rice, and whereas she would normally wolf this down, it took her two or three goes to eat it.”
Boo began to loose weight rapidly, she was drinking a lot of water and became lethargic on walks. It was when Boo stopped bringing them soft toys from their daughter’s bedroom as a ‘gift’ – something she would do each morning – that the Cockburns knew something was really wrong.
Mike said, “We could see our lovely, bright dog was getting sicker and more withdrawn and it was really upsetting to see.”
The team at Acorn organised for her to have a full scan and noticed what they thought was a spot on her lung and referred her to specialists at Leahurst Veterinary Hospital for more tests. At first, it was suspected she had thoracic cancer but further tests detected the spot on her lung was lungworm.
Mike continued, “It was such a relief to hear it wasn’t cancer but then we were told Boo was still in a serious situation with the lungworm, so it was all a bit of a rollercoaster.”
To the relief of Mike and his family, Boo was allowed home after she was immediately put on a two-week course of strong wormer. “Within a few days Boo started to eat properly and get back her strength. Over the last six weeks she has pretty much put most of her weight back on and is almost back to her old, playful self. She can still get a little stiff after a walk and has regular check-ups at the Acorn surgery, but she is definitely on the mend.”
Mike believes that if it hadn’t been for the determination of the veterinary teams at Acorn and Leahurst to uncover the cause of Boo’s puzzling symptoms, the outcome could have been very different. “I had no idea what lungworm was and didn’t realise just how rare it is – or how broad the symptoms are. It was real detective work by the vet team who didn’t give up and we have Boo still with us today because of that.”
Vet Dylan said that Boo’s prognosis was now looking good. “In Boo’s case, we were relieved to have caught it in time and she will make a full recovery.”
Mike said, “We still don’t know where Boo may have picked up the lungworm infection; we walk in lots of places on the Wirral and had also recently been walking in the South Lakes so it could have been anywhere.”
Seeing the impact of lungworm first-hand, Mike is urging other dog owners to get their pet checked if they are at all concerned about any changes in their dog’s health or behaviour and to check their pet’s worming programme.
“It is so important to stay up-to-date with your dog’s regular worming as prevention is better than trying to cure. We were worming Boo regularly but I would definitely urge dog owners to speak to their vets about all the worming options which are available to guard against this awful disease.”