For Minnie

Sitting here still in a state of shock after the events of the last week, I feel the need to write it all down in the hopes that it may help prevent the same thing happening to anyone else.
At the end of last year, we welcomed the most gorgeous pup into our home. Minnie, a stunning 5-month-old French bulldog came into our home and melted our hearts straight away. With her adorable face and big ears, she had the most lovely personality and slotted in with the whole family without breaking her stride. Bruce our boxer dog was in need of a pal and it turned out to be a wonderful friendship indeed. Wherever Bruce was, Minnie would be there, on top of him or wrapped around him. 
We decide to get her spayed and I walked her into our vets last Friday, with her usual Minnie walk, sniffing and interested in everything. At the appointed time I phoned to find out when I could pick her up and was told that everything had gone well and to come in around 4.30. An hour later they rang to say to leave it for an hour as they wanted to check the blood on her bandage. Ten minutes later I had a call from our vet to ask permission to open her up again as she was concerned. During this second operation, everything seemed fine. All ligatures were tied off correctly, checked and rechecked, but the poor little baby was still losing blood. This is a long story, and the upshot was that she had 2 blood transfusions that night and our vet sat up all night with her. A few extremely anxious days and nights where we had everything crossed that she would get brighter.
I went in to see her and try to persuade her to eat but no luck, and whilst I was there the blood test results came back. Minnie had lungworm, a parasite which can cause its host’s body to not be able to coagulate blood - hence the problems during the operation. We were happy to have an answer, but the poor little lady was very weak and was still coping with the blood transfusions, and despite treatment, she didn’t wake up on the Wednesday morning.
To say we are devastated is such an understatement. Totally numb, and struggling to come to terms with what had just happened to our little baby girl. Feeling responsible that we had taken a seemingly healthy pup in for a routine op and not being able to bring her home. She had had a couple of bouts of diarrhoea, but no coughs or anything to suggest problems. We are packing to go away to France as we always do with our dogs in a few weeks. Her Pet Passport is here ready, and we were so excited to think that she would be having her first holiday there with us all.
We have just had Bruce our boxer tested for lungworm and thankfully the tests are negative. There have only been a couple of reported cases near our area. We don’t know how long Minnie had been carrying the parasite and how much damage was already done to her body. What I do know is that it is something we were completely unaware of, and I really want to pass this on to every single dog owner in the UK.
So many questions! My brain just can’t switch off from all of them. Did Minnie pick up the parasite here? Did she come with it already inside her? How long had she had it? Should we have taken her in to be spayed? Should she have been on a preventative medication? She died because of a lungworm infestation, but equally, because she was having an operation that brought all the other problems to the fore, and as a consequence of the transfusions her immune system was low. 
And the preventative treatments that are available - they are given as far as I can tell depending on the area your dog lives in and whether there are reported cases. I am a pharmacist so I guess this makes sense based on resistance. But if it was picked up in the area she came from maybe she should have been given a prevention there? And if it was given everywhere then maybe it would have killed it here before she had her operation. 
I have spoken to many friends and family who own dogs and who also don’t know anything about lungworm. It has made it harder for us to deal with as she was a happy healthy dog as far as we could see on the day of her operation. Symptoms would definitely have presented eventually, and if there were problems with her ability to coagulate blood then a simple cut could have been disastrous.
Please - if you own a dog, read the information below which I have found from various websites. Unfortunately, there is no failsafe way to prevent our dogs from contracting the disease, but knowing about it will help. We can reduce the incidence or likelihood by being aware. Pass the word on and let’s make sure every one of our best friends is protected, and that is upmost in everyone’s minds when symptoms present.
Sleep well little Minnie Moo. You were only with us for such a short time, and we are so sad that you have been robbed of the good life we know you would have had here with us. You will never be forgotten little lady xxxxx
Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a nasty parasite on the rise in the UK. 
  1. Slimy slugs and snails are the main culprits for spreading Lungworm which is why greedy pups who eat these slimy garden critters are considered at high risk. We therefore highly recommend not leaving dog toys out in the garden at night, wherein an average UK garden a reported +20,000 slugs and snails live!

  2. Dogs of all ages and breeds can become infected, but younger dogs are more prone to picking up bugs including Lungworm.

  3. Infected pooches spread the parasite into the environment as the Lungworm larvae are expelled in their poo, and slugs and snails that come into contact with the poo become infected, increasing the chances of other dogs becoming infected.

  4. Foxes can also become infected with Lungworm and have been implicated in the spread across the country.

  5. Other slimy garden delicacies like frogs can also carry the larvae, presenting another risk to your precious pooch.

Unfortunately, with more people travelling in the UK with their pets, and foxes roaming up to 50km, the risk of Lungworm spreading around the country will continue, so it’s important to know the effects, symptoms and life cycle of the Lungworm.
All dog owners need to keep an eye out for the following symptoms but it is worth bearing in mind that not all pets show symptoms in the early stages of infection:
  • General Sickness (Diarrhoea, Poor Appetite, Vomiting, Weight loss)

  • Breathing problems (Coughing, Tiring Easily)

  • Behaviour Changes (Depression, Seizures, Lethargy)

  • Poor Blood Clotting (Nose Bleeds, Excessive Bleeding, Bleeding into the Eye)

The distribution of lungworm varies from area to area and prevalence can vary from year to year, due to climate and the presence of vectors in the local environment. Inquisitive dogs have plenty of opportunities for coming into contact with gastropods carrying the parasites’ larvae. Chewing slugs and snails or licking their slimy trails can result in infection.
Much as we would like to protect our dogs from illness and falling foul of such conditions as this, short of locking them away in a cupboard, there is no real failsafe way to stop them from contracting this disease. We can reduce the instance or likelihood though by being aware.
• It is a good idea, for instance, to talk to your vet about this problem and to ask if there have been any reported case in your area from time to time.
• You can also try to keep your dog away from slugs and snails etc... If the weather has been extra wet then be aware that these pesky creatures will be out in force. If possible avoid walking in long grass and wooded areas where you cannot see exactly what your dog is up to.
Not all worming treatments are effective against the Lungworm parasite so make sure you always check with your vets. Once diagnosed and treated, most Dogs make a full recovery, but the key to successful treatment is taking action early!
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