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Campaign Launched after Killer Parasite Cases Rocket in Five Years

26 October 2015

UK - The PDSA has launched a campaign to warn dog owners about the need to regularly protect their pets against lungworm after cases of the killer parasite rocketed by over 30 per cent in just five years.

And PDSA vets are warning this could be just the tip of the iceberg as many cases of lungworm go unreported.

Lungworm can cause weight loss, difficulty breathing, a chronic cough and can even be fatal, warn vets.

Comparing data for 2009 and 2014, our vets found there had been a 35 per cent increase in confirmed cases of the worm across our 51 UK pet hospitals.

PDSA Vet Vicki Larkham-Jones said: “There has been a significant increase in the number of confirmed cases of lungworm at our pet hospitals. “In 2009 there were 49 confirmed cases and this had risen to 66 cases in 2014. However, the true figure is likely to be much higher, as not all infected animals can be positively diagnosed.

The hot spots for cases used to be Wales and southern England, but experts say the problem is now far more widespread.

Vicki added: “The larvae of the lungworm parasite are carried by slugs and snails. The problem arises when dogs 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. Thanks to funding support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery we’ll be delivering over 100,000 worming treatments in 12 months. We’re also able to educate more owners about the dangers and the importance of good, preventive healthcare. ”

Foxes can become infected with lungworm, and have been implicated in the spread of the parasite across the country. A recent study by University of Bristol scientists found that in some areas, up to 50 per cent of foxes are infected with lungworm. Frogs can also carry the lungworm larvae, presenting a risk to dogs.

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