I first heard of canine angiostrongilosis approximately 10 years ago, when I was still a vet student at the National Veterinary School of Toulouse, France. It was during a parasitology lecture, and our professor told us it was not uncommon in South of France around the Garonne River… That’s almost all I remember: then I left Toulouse to work at the vet school in Paris and only focussed on canine and feline repro. Must admit I somehow lost track of this parasite…
Then I arrived in Canada and during a seminar on parasitology, I hear something about a parasite, called the “French heartworm”. The speaker said it was not present yet in North America but “just reached Newfoundland”. His name: Angiostrongylus vasorum. Hum, interesting! So I went back to my notes, and recently found an online paper discussing this canine parasite. It is NOT a major concern in North America for the moment, but as usual an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so you’ll find my notes here!
- Canine angiostrongilosis is an increasingly reported disease in Europe, possibly due to climatic factors (global warming – as usual- has been blamed for it), presence of parasite reservoirs (foxes mainly, but I assume this could the same with all wild canids and we have lots of coyotes, right?) and increased travelling of dog owners
- The parasite causing the disease is Angiostrongylus vasorum. It inhabits the right side of the heart and pulmonary artery (and its branches).
- The infection is generally associated with respiratory signs, occasionally coupled with neurological and coagulation disorders.
- The severity of symptoms can greatly vary ranging from asymptomatic to severe forms.
- Infestation occurs following ingestion of terrestrial molluscs (slugs, terrestrial or water snails) which act as intermediate hosts.
- The parasite is intermittently excreted in the feces. Therefore, fecal tests on three consecutive days are usually required to reach a diagnosis.
- Treatments are described in the literature, but will have to be administered during up to 4 weeks.
- Good news: Due to the fact that larvae do not survive long in the outer environment (3 days to 3 weeks) and that they need an intermediate host, disease contagiousness is very low.
Not a big threat in our country yet, but as usual kennels are predisposed environment. So it’s always better to know a little bit about this!
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