Lungworm or French Heart Worm.

Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) has only become a potential problem in UK in the last 15 years and affected dogs are now seen as far north as Scotland. It is generelly felt that our warmer climate is the reason for its spread.  It has a complicated life cycle and dogs eating the snail or slug is part of the cycle. In dogs, the worm usually lives in the blood vessels passing from the heart to the lungs, but it can migrate to other sites including the eyes and brain. It does not affect humans and cannot be transmitted to you through your dog. 

The Immune System and Autoimmune Disorders

To understand auto immune diseases it helps to have a basic understanding of the immune system itself.

The immune system is the protective mechanism for the body and is highly complicated.  There are basically two parts to it.  The first is the purely physical, being the barriers such as the skin or mucous membranes or the chemical, such as the acids in the stomach which destroy bacteria.

Should this level of defence fail, which it does for any number of reasons, then the body’s next level of defence will kick in.

KC/BSAVA Purebred Dog Health Survey 2004

In 2004 the Kennel Club and British Small Animal Veterinary Association joined with the Animal Health Trust to carry out a survey of pedigree dogs in UK.  A questionnaire was devised and sent to owners to try and identify which health conditions were present in each breed.  The questionnaires were circulated by breed clubs to their members.

The questionnaire was divided into different sections with questions on the health of the owner’s dogs, breeding, causes of death and birth defects in any puppies.

Pyometra

Pyometra is an infection of the uterus which needs immediate veterinary attention.  If not treated it will be fatal.  Any unspayed bitch can be affected although it is usually found in older bitches and signs are generally noticed 6-8 weeks after her season. If a bitch has had puppies it will stop her from getting a true pyometra but she can still suffer a uterine infection.

Causes.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia (HD) is a problem that is seen across many breeds of dogs but it is more common in the giant and large breeds.  It is an abnormality of the ball and socket joint of the hip.  The hip is designed so that the ball should fit snugly into the socket allowing it to move freely but securely without causing any damage to the bones.  However, damage may occur if there is looseness in the joint because the bones are not properly formed (e.g.

Megaoesophagus

Megaoesophagus

The oesophagus is the muscular tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach.  This is done by waves of muscular contractions, called peristalsis, which push the food along the tube.

Laryngeal Paralysis

The condition consists of a degeneration of the nerves, which stimulate the muscles of the voice box (larynx).  Paralysis of the larynx is quite common in elderly dogs, especially males, and although the Labrador, Irish Setter and Afghan Hound seem to be particularly susceptible, practically any breed in the middle weight range could be involved.

Signs may go unnoticed because owners expect elderly dogs to slow up and huff and puff a bit when exercising.  One or more of the following are the most frequent signs of laryngeal paralysis:

Entropion

A condition in which the edge of one or both eyelids turns inwards to the eyeball; usually it is the bottom eyelid that turns inwards. The condition causes the eyelashes and outer lid hair to irritate and inflame the cornea. It is very painful and in severe cases corneal ulcers and rupture of the eyeball can occur.  If seen in puppies it is likely to be inherited but may have other causes in an older dog.  Sometimes only one eye will be affected but then the other may turn later.

Epilepsy/Fits/Seizures

Epilepsy means repeated seizures due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain and is caused by an abnormality in the brain itself. However a fitting dog is not always an epileptic dog. Fitting or seizures can be caused by a variety of disorders (including poisons, metabolic disorders and brain tumours), with epilepsy being only one of them. Epilepsy is recognised as an inherited condition (idiopathic epilepsy) in some breeds, and typically signs start between 6 months and 3 years of age.

Cryptorchidism

When dog puppies are born their testicles have not descended into the scrotum.  Usually by the time they are 8 weeks the testicles can be clearly felt by a vet or an experienced breeder but may take a few more weeks to descend fully.  However, occasionally, one or both do not descend but are retained inside the body; this is cryptorchidism.

Cryptorchidism is believed to be inherited, and affected dogs cannot be shown.