I read a press release today entitled "New Parasite Infection Killing Pet Dogs in Southern England". It’s about the lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum. The main reservoir for this parasite in England is the common red fox. Slugs and snails are involved in transmission of the worm as well.  Infection of dogs most likely occurs through ingestion of the parasite from contaminated water or other environmental sources. The press release mentions a study that was released last year which reported an increase in the parasite in wild foxes. It mentions (without providing any data) that infections are occurring regularly dogs in some regions. This may well be true but brings to mind an important point I mentioned the other day (among others): know the source of information you are reading. I know I’m being a bit cynical, and it’s possible that they have the well being of pets in mind, but the press release is from an online veterinary pharmacy, a company that obviously benefits from increased treatment of pets with dewormers.

This is made clear by their statement "Luckily there are a number of medicines available that can provide real and lasting protection from this nasty parasite. At www.vetscriptions.co.uk we recommend that all dog owners make it their business to find out about this disease and make sure that their dogs are fully protected."

Is lungworm a real and increasing threat in the UK? It’s certainly possible. I don’t dismiss the possibility at all.

Would I get concerned about it at this point? No. I’d look for objective information and ask my vet if there are any concerns in my particular area. Like the press release says, people should "make it their business to find out about this disease."

So what does this tell me? It reminds me that there are a lot of potential infectious disease threats out there that I need to pay attention to, but there are also a lot of people trying to make money at the same time. It could be that this company is being benevolent and honestly trying to make sure that pet owners are aware of the risks of lungworm. It’s also possible they are taking advantage of a marginally relevant problem. Information like this is good for raising some questions, but getting advice from a non-biased source is critical.

  • jane

    Hi Scott
    A thought provoking blog! The problem is that until a dog one loves is infected and dies from A Vasorum, we can speculate. After that everything changes. Marketing ploys are not my favorite thing either – but in this case I say ‘ploy away’ because the worst thing that can happen is that it starts to make people sit up and think.
    As you quoted – dog owners should do their own research …imo the sooner the better!
    This is why:

  • James Trezona

    The campaign is something that is the result of an increase of infections. And yes, the pharma companies have a vested interest in illness, but that’s never changed. The best thing is to do your research, and have a good relationship with your vet who you trust. Like all things, it is about balancing; risks and reality – the more informed you are the easier it is to find that balance. But not saying that your words of caution are groundless, I think a healthy sceptical viewpoint is a good approach, but cyncicism can cloud views. But so can over-sentimentality/worry!

  • Robert Whyte

    I have two Yorkies, they both have been diagnosed with lung worm. Eggs were found in the first stool sample, but not since. They both have had a one week session of Panacure 3 weeks ago. Gracie’s symptoms were vomitting, and then reperatory distress. Becky mostly had diarrhea. She spent a day at the Vet’s on IV’s. 3 weeks after Panacur, Becky became sick again, this time severe diarrhea every 2 hours, and ended up at the Vet’s on IV’s yesterday. As of this morning she is still having diarrhea. We are now trying Panacur for 7 days, 2 weeks off, on for a week, two weeks off, on for a week, a month off, on for a week. Gracie’s symptoms have not returned and seems normal. Both Dogs are being treated. It is a complete mystery where they contracted this. We live in Stratford Ontario, and took walks around the river until November.

  • Darleen

    I live in CT, USA.I have 10 Siberian huskies which I use for recreational dogsledding. I noticed they were panting more than usual this past summer but no other symptoms. My vet took x-rays and bloodwork. They were diagnosed with eosinophilic bronchitis. We tested for lungworm which was negative so came up that they had an environmental allergy to something. After several months, one of my older dogs died which sent me to Tufts Veterinary University in MA, USA with another of my dogs. After much testing, a lungworm was found in a bronchial wash. All of my dogs were started on panacur. 5 of them started coughing after day 1 of panacur so were started on steroids. I did 2 weeks of panacur and now just finished weaning them off steroids. I also will be doing panacur on for 2 weeks, off for 2 weeks for 3 months. I will then need to call Tufts to see what we can come up with for a preventative. Since it is now in our yard, I will need to find a way to keep them from being re-infected.