Shocking Cause of Dog’s Constant Cough

October 13, 2021

A graphic video taken by one of our vets revealed the shocking cause of a dog’s constant cough.

The six-year-old boxer dog was suffering from a severe case of lungworm and was infested and infected by potentially deadly parasites.

Nicki Reed, Specialist in Internal Medicine, dealt with the case and said the alarming images provided dog owners with a powerful warning of the perils of lungworm.

Nicki, who is a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, explained: “The dog came to VSS because he had been coughing for several weeks and there had been no improvement despite a course of antibiotics.

“We performed a bronchoscopy (a thin tube with a tiny video camera being sent down the throat into the lungs) to evaluate his airways and what was found is not for the faint-hearted. It revealed hundreds of worms within the dog’s airways.

“The worm was identified as Crenosoma Vulpis, which is also known as the fox lungworm, so it’s likely that our patient got infected either by eating a snail or a slug, which host the parasites, or by swallowing the larvae themselves when eating grass.”

After a dog is infected, lungworm usually causes progressively worsening signs of respiratory disease, such as coughing, which, if left untreated, can be fatal.

Treatment is usually quick and easy but Nicki admitted that the extent of the infection in this case meant the VSS team needed to take a more measured approach to killing so many worms.

She said: “Although parasiticide treatments can be used to treat these infestations, there was some concern that rapidly killing large numbers of worms could lead to anaphylaxis (severe and potentially life-threatening reaction) as the worms die.

“So, we opted for a 10-day course of treatment alongside a low dose of steroid therapy to try to prevent this.

“Happily, no further coughing has been reported, but ongoing treatment will be required for the next few weeks as the worming treatment will only kill larvae and adult worms, and more may hatch from eggs which have not yet been destroyed.

“Going forward, routine worming treatments should help prevent re-infestation once the infection is clear.”

Nicki is using the remarkable case to highlight the dangers of lungworm and to alert dog owners to the warning signs of lungworm disease, which can be vague and easily confused with other illnesses.

She says there are two different species of lungworm commonly identified in the UK, Crenosoma vulpis, as in this case, and Filaroides osleri.

Another parasite that can commonly infect the lungs, and which has received the most publicity in recent years, is the ‘French heartworm’ Angiostrongylus vasorum which, as well as causing respiratory signs, can also cause bleeding disorders.

The danger signals for the three species include:

  • Weight loss
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Poor blood clotting/persistent bleeding
  • General sickness
  • Circling
  • Stomach and back pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Seizures