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Dog Owners Warned - Worrying Rise of Lungworm Cases

02 October 2014
TEXT HERE

UK - PDSA vets have issued a warning to dog owners after confirmed cases of killer parasite, lungworm, have trebled in just five years.

The veterinary charity said there had been a worrying increase in reported cases of lungworm among pets at its 51 pet hospitals.

The parasitic worm can cause weight loss, difficulty breathing, a chronic cough and difficulty exercising and even fatality. The hot spots used to be Wales and southern England, but experts say the problem is now far more widespread.

PDSA senior vet Elaine Pendlebury said that, since 2009, there has been a threefold increase in the number of pets affected by lungworm diagnosed at PDSA pet hospitals.

The larvae of the lungworm parasite are carried by slugs and snails. The problem arises when dogs purposefully or accidentally eat these common garden pests when rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or pick them up from their toys.

Foxes can become infected with lungworm, and have been implicated in the spread of the parasite across the country. Frogs can also carry the larvae, presenting a risk to dogs.

Lungworm is often transmitted by infected slugs or snails that carry the parasite and can even be contracted by a dog drinking from puddles or using toys or bowls that have been left outside. It can also be caught by eating infected fox or dog faeces.

In a survey of 150 veterinary practices across the UK a total of 952 suspected cases were reported (157 laboratory confirmed), with 81 deaths thought to have been caused by the parasite.

Elaine said: “PDSA is alerting dog owners to the danger of lungworm as there has been a significant increase in suspected and confirmed cases of lungworm over the past five years.

“Although it has been present in parts of the UK for a long time, the parasite seems to be spreading and there have been outbreaks in previously unaffected areas. But we believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and the problem could be more widespread.”

Elaine warned the parasite may have become more prevalent due to our warmer and more humid summers, which has caused the slug and snail population to increase.

Elaine added: “It’s important to ensure your pets receive regular preventive worming treatment, including specific products for lungworm in affected areas, so they do not become ill. Your vet will able to advise what’s best for your dog and remember to clean up after your dog to help avoid spreading the parasite.

“If an owner suspects that their dog could be infected, they should take their pet along to see their vet as soon as possible, as early treatment is always best.”

Lucky escape

Greyhound Blackie, from London, was left fighting for his life after becoming infected with lungworm.

The four-year-old ex-racing dog spent three days at PDSA’s Thamesmead pet hospital receiving emergency treatment from vets and nurses as they battled to save the beloved family pet.

Pam Falconer says Blackie recovered from a sever lungworm infection, thanks to PDSA
Pam Falconer says Blackie recovered from a sever lungworm infection, thanks to PDSA

His owner, Pam Falconer (68) of Black Heath, said: “We initially thought Blackie had hurt himself because he had fallen over. But he was displaying other symptoms and looked really unwell.

“We took him to PDSA where they diagnosed him with lungworm. I couldn’t believe it as I’d lived in Scotland for many years and I’d never even heard of it before.”

Blackie was admitted to the charity’s pet hospital at Thamesmead, where he received emergency treatment.

Pam said: “They told me they didn’t know whether he would survive and I was absolutely terrified at the thought of losing him. I think it’s so important for other pet owners to be aware of the dangers. A few worming tablets every few months could be the difference between life and death. Thankfully, the PDSA vets performed a miracle and managed to save him. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done - they are my heroes.”

Pam said she now ensures Blackie receives frequent worming treatment and urges other owners to take heed and ensure they keep on top of their pet’s preventive health.

Read our previous coverage here.

ThePetSite News Desk



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