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Fatal parasite is now endemic in the UK, experts warn

Vets warn that the potentially fatal lungworm parasite has reached endemic proportions, with 150 veterinary practices across the UK reporting 952 suspected cases and 81 deaths caused by the parasite this year alone.

The Angiostrongylus Vasorum parasite, carried by common slugs and snails found in the typical UK garden, is thriving thanks to last year’s second wettest weather on record and this year’s damp spring.

Evidence from the Royal Veterinary College suggests the parasite has spread across the UK, from its traditional habitat in the south, to the northern regions, with one in five vet practices reporting at least one case of the parasite.  

Further research among 2,000 UK dog owners, by Bayer Animal Health discovered that 84 per cent do not know the symptoms of the parasite and 50 per cent do not know the risks of infection.

Dogs can become infected by unsuspectingly eating slugs or snails carrying the lungworm larvae. Once inside the dog’s system, the parasite travels through the body eventually ending up in the heart. Untreated, the dog’s health can rapidly deteriorate, often resulting in death.

Routine use of a specific treatment, available from veterinary surgeons, prevents dogs from developing a lungworm infection. Some pet owners believe that lungworm can be prevented using conventional worming tablets, which is unfortunately not the case.

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