Owners are being warned by experts to expect a record number of snails and slugs this spring, following a “perfect storm” of weather conditions.
Slugs and snails can carry the ‘hidden killer’ lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) parasite which can cause serious health problems in dogs and be fatal if not diagnosed and treated.
Lungworm can be contracted by dogs after they accidentally swallow infected slugs or snails, or even after swallowing the slime of an infected slug.
Once the lungworm parasite is inside a dog’s system, it can cause breathing difficulties, chronic coughing, excessive bleeding, weight loss and, in some cases, death.
Now, vets are warning dog owners to be aware of the risks that can lurk in the great outdoors.
Parasite expert Ian Wright of the European Scientific Council for Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP) said: “Mild, wet weather has provided ideal breeding conditions for slugs and snails, which we predict will emerge in record numbers with the arrival of spring.
“Even the tiny slugs and snails that live on blades of grass can potentially infect dogs with lungworm, so it’s vital that dog owners pay close attention to what their dogs are sniffing around during walks or when in the garden, and speak to their vet about treatment that prevents infection.”
Mark Bossley, chief vet at the UK’s leading animal charity, Blue Cross, said: “We regularly advise dog owners of the dangers of lungworm because, sadly, we see so many cases every year.
“It is a hidden killer so we urge dog owners to talk to their vet about preventative treatments and be vigilant with their dogs when in the garden or on walks.”