Lungworm: vet's warning for dog owners after wet UK summer - what are the deadly parasite's symptoms?
Plenty of summer rain has created the perfect conditions for lungworm-carrying slugs and snails
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Near-record rainfall this summer and warm, humid days have created a perfect storm of slugs and snails - which vets fear could be a big problem for curious pups who try to eat them.
July was a washout for much of the UK, with seemingly endless days of rain and even a few storms. The Met Office said it was one of the UK's wettest Julys on record, while August has also been a mixed bag of sunshine and rain.
The parasitic worms can be found in slugs and snails, but can infect dogs if they come into contact with them while sniffing around in the garden, or on walks.
While eating them poses the highest risk, even slime trails can be dangerous, he said, with the worms then travelling around their body through the blood vessels.
"Once they have entered the body and migrated through the tissues, they can cause serious harm to your canine’s heart and lungs," he continued.
"This is because the larvae release a chemical that stops the blood from clotting when they enter your dog's blood vessels, leaving them at risk of internal bleeding that if left untreated or undiagnosed, could prove to be fatal."
Dr McCormack of tails.com warns that once a dog has become infected with lungworm, it can take a while for obvious signs of infection to appear.
If you suspect that your dog has come into contact with slugs or snails, there are a few early signs to look out for :
- Your dog seems down or depressed
- They are more lethargic or tired than normal
- Dogs normally eager to eat dinner seem to have a poor appetite
- You notice they are vomiting with no immediate or apparent cause
- Your dog has loose stool or is experiencing diarrhoea
However, he warned that many of these can also be symptoms of other diseases too - and people should check with their vets if they are unsure.
Slugs and snails - and lungworm cases in dogs - are usually a lot more prominent during the spring, Dr McCormack said. But his team had noticed a huge spike in Google searches for lungworm in dogs over the past few weeks.
With more rain forecast in the weeks to come, he urged owners to be vigilant for slugs and snails over the coming weeks, "especially if you have a puppy who is more likely to investigate the garden creatures".
Luckily, Dr McCormack said it is actually fairly simple to prevent our canine companions from contracting the disease in the first place.
A liquid medication, which you can get from your vet, can be applied to the skin on the back of your dog's neck, and there is also an oral medication that treats lungworm specifically.
"If you aren’t sure what kind of treatment is best for your canine make sure to seek advice from your vet. Then you can enjoy the rest of summer safe in the knowledge that your dog is protected from a lungworm infection."