Vets warn new owners thousands of dogs could be at risk from deadly parasite
Figures suggest that 42% of dog owners are not aware of what lungworm is or how it can infect their pets
Thousands of dogs bought over lockdown could be at risk from the deadly parasite lungworm, spread by slugs and snails, with many estimated dog owners walking unprotected pets, vets are warning.
Because of damp weather across the UK in May, experts suggest slug and snail activity will explode, meaning dogs are at greater risk of contracting lungworm in the garden, on walks and even by drinking from water bowls or puddles.
A survey from Elanco Animal Health indicates that 42% of dog owners are not aware of what lungworm is or how it can infect dogs.
Data from animal welfare charities suggests there was a recent surge in people buying pets as they looked for company during lockdown.
But vets are more concerned at the number of dogs that are not adequately protected.
The poll revealed that only 21% of dog owners surveyed had given their dog a lungworm preventative treatment in the past month.
Dogs can be infected with the potentially fatal parasite when they eat common slugs and snails in their garden or on walks.
They can also pick up lungworm while rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or picking it up from their toys.
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.”
Bailey, a five-month-old retriever puppy, was diagnosed with lungworm in May after only being with his new family for a few months.
They were unaware of the need to prevent against lungworm.
Bailey’s owner Rachel 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, and 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.”
Anne Nelson, the senior veterinary surgeon who treated the puppy, said: “When Bailey came into the practice on Friday May 14, he was not presenting with the usual clinical signs we associate with lungworm, such as coughing, weight loss or a change in behaviour.
“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.”
Vets are warning that the signs of lungworm are not always obvious, and puppies can be especially likely to eat slugs and snails, due to their inquisitive nature.
The infection is much easier to prevent than it is to cure, experts say.
Elanco’s new campaign – Open your eyes to deadly lungworm – warns owners of the effect parasite can have on their dogs.
Luke Gamble, veterinarian and campaign supporter, said: “I care passionately about this campaign because so many dog owners are unaware of the dangers of lungworm.
“The key thing is understanding that over-the-counter medications can’t protect dogs against lungworm, so it’s vital owners speak to their vet to make sure their dog is continuously protected.”
Lungworm has been spreading year on year within the UK, with 2,871 cases reported across the country, according to Elanco’s Lungworm Map, which pet owners can use to check how many cases of lungworm are in their area.
:: The online survey was conducted by YouGov. The total sample size was 2,003 adults of which 535 were dog owners, and fieldwork was undertaken between June 2 and June 3 2021.
The Press Association
Latest posts by The Press Association (see all)
- International Self-Care Day: Do you know the different types of self-care? - July 24, 2021
- 10 reasons we should all get on board with regular Covid testing - July 23, 2021
- Queen enjoys display of knitted Sandringham - July 22, 2021
- George’s eighth birthday marked with picture that remembers Philip - July 21, 2021
- New host of Radio 4’s Just A Minute revealed - July 20, 2021
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!