Veterinary surgeons should now consider Angiostrongylus vasorum a countrywide parasite and not one that is restricted to the traditional hotspots of the southeast, the Midlands and South Wales.
This was the main message delivered by Shelia Brennan of University College Dublin to nearly 300 vets attending the recent Bayersponsored CPD meetings on A. vasorum, which were held across the north of England and Scotland.
“Until recently, angiostrongylosis was only recognised in limited areas of the UK, and confirmed cases were few and far between,” said Shelia. “Now we are hearing reports of the disease as far afield as Kent and Glasgow and dogs are dying as a result.
“If caught early enough, the disease can be treated successfully. Vets should be aware of the many and varied symptoms and consider this parasite as a differential in any dog with suspicious clinical signs.”
Dogs of any age can be infected with the parasite, but the majority presenting with clinical disease are less than two years of age. A number of clinical presentations are recognised.
Dogs may present with respiratory signs (cough, exercise intolerance), coagulopathy, neurological signs, syncope and in a small number of cases hypercalcaemia.
These signs can occur in isolation or in combination, and not all dogs have respiratory signs. Haemorrhage following routine neutering has been anecdotally reported. Dogs with a history of eating the parasite’s intermediate hosts (slugs and snails) should be considered as being at high risk.