A dog-owner has encouraged others to be wary of a deadly parasite that affects canines after her lockdown puppy died soon after being exposed to it.
Lungworm is an infection caused by the round worm parasite called Angiostrongylus Vasorum. Slugs and snails carry the lungworm larvae and dogs generally become infected when they play with or eat them.
Once a rare condition in the UK, lungworm is now widespread across the country with cases soaring, especially due to the wet May weather, reports Manchester Evening News.
The potentially deadly larvae can survive for up to two weeks in the slime of slugs and snails.
Dog owner Rachel Morris discovered the dangers of the infection after puppy Bailey fell victim to it, dying just a few months after joining her family.
Ms Morris, from Surrey, said: “We had waited for a puppy for many years and lockdown has meant this was actually possible.
“We had never heard of lungworm. Bailey was always playing out in the garden, but we had never seen him eat any slugs or snails, but he did like to chew grass and unfortunately we now know that lungworm can even come from licking a snail’s trail from grass, toys and or bowls left outside.”
TeamDogs says that pups can also pick up the virus while rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass or drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, as the gastropods can leave deposits of lungworm larvae in their trails.
Anne Nelson, the senior veterinary surgeon who treated Bailey, said that when he came into the practice on Friday May 14, he was not presenting with the usual clinical signs associated with lungworm, such as coughing, weight loss or a change in behaviour.
The vet added: “Bailey was rushed back to us the following day, when we diagnosed lungworm and referred him to a specialist for vital care.
“Despite our best efforts, Bailey sadly passed away the next day as the lungworm infection had become too significant for his body to recover from.”
Experts warn that puppies, due to their inquisitive nature, are especially at risk.
They also say that lung worm is much easier to prevent than it is to cure. This can be done by minimising a dog’s exposure to slugs and snails.
Another way to be vigilant is to take in outdoor dog bowls at night, as they provide a damp environment that attracts slugs, snails and their potentially dangerous slime.
Dr Bryony Tolhurst, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Brighton, said: “The slime of slugs and snails can contain the infective lungworm parasite that can cause disease in dogs.
“With the unusually damp weather the UK has been experiencing this year, slugs and snails are more active, and lungworm larvae can survive for up to two weeks in their slime, potentially exposing dogs to the parasite.”
Worryingly, 42% of dog owners are not even aware of what lungworm is or how their pets can become infected by it, according to a survey from Elanco Animal Health.
Elanco Animal Health has launched a national campaign called Open your eyes to deadly lungworm , and an online map that lets pet owners see how many cases are in a 50-mile radius of their postcode.
It has recorded 2,871 cases across the country this year