Angiostrongylus vasorum is a globally distributed nematode that parasitises the pulmonary arteries and, less frequently, the right heart of dogs and wild canids. Infections with A. vasorum occur more often in Germany than normally expected (a prevalence of 7.4% according to Barutzki and Schaper, 2009). Thus, an infection with this lungworm should always be considered in differential diagnosis if respiratory and/or cardiovascular symptoms are present.
Dogs as definitive hosts get infected by ingesting L3 larvae when eating infected snails or slugs (intermediate hosts). L3 invade the lymphatic and blood system through the wall of the small intestine of the dog and enter the pulmonary arteries. Six to eight weeks p. i., the females begin to lay eggs. Via the blood, the eggs reach the fine pulmonary capillaries where they develop into L1 larvae and enter the pulmonary alveoli. From here, they are carried up by the ciliated epithelium or are coughed up, swallowed again and finally excreted with the faeces. L1 are taken up with the faeces by intermediate hosts and the infectious L3 then develop within them.
Especially young dogs between the age of one and two years are affected by canine angiostrongylosis. Besides clinically inapparent infections, the course of the disease may be mild to life-threatening. Clinical signs are highly variable, however, the main symptoms include cardiopulmonary signs such as dyspnoea and cough. The second most typical symptoms are coagulopathy with epistaxis, haemoptysis, haematoma and anaemia. Subsequently, DIC, circulatory insufficiency and death can occur. Vomiting or neurological symptoms like muscle tremor, ataxia, dizziness and epileptiform seizures are also possible.