Last year’s damp summer and mild wet winter conditions have proved ideal for the slug and snail populations, leading vets warning of a continued spread of lungworm in the UK. Lungworm is a parasite that dogs become infected with after eating common garden slugs and snails carrying the larvae. Once inside the dog’s system, the parasite travels through the body eventually ending up in the heart. If the infection is left untreated, the dog’s health can rapidly deteriorate, and can even result in death.
A recent nationwide survey of UK vets has revealed that over 25 per cent of those questioned had either confirmed or suspected a case of this potentially fatal condition, yet as few as six per cent of dog owners had even heard of the disease. Signs to look out for include coughing, reluctance to exercise, depression, weight loss, fits, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, paralysis and persistent bleeding from even small cuts. Dogs known to eat slugs and snails should also be considered candidates for a check up with a vet, even if they are showing no outward signs of infection.
Where possible, take precautions
• Avoid the use of outdoor drinking water and food bowls which often attract slugs or snails – there is evidence that slime trails can infect a dog if they are eaten
• Don’t leave your dog’s toys, chews or bones in the garden as they can attract snails
• Ask your vet for a parasite control programme that takes into account the risk of dogs becoming infected
All dog owners are being urged to be on the lookout for the potentially fatal disease caused by infection of the parasite. Detailed information on the disease and advice on what to do if you suspect your dog is infected with this parasite can be found online at www.lungworm.co.uk