A woman whose joy in becoming a puppy owner during the lockdown was dashed after the death of her five-month-old retriever is now warning other families to take precautions against lungworms.
Bailey had only been with his family a few months when he was diagnosed with the potentially fatal parasite, and owner Rachel Morris didn’t know how to take precautions.
Dogs can become infected if they accidentally or deliberately eat nudibranchs in their yard or on their daily walks.
Information about TeamDogs says they can also pick it up while rummaging in the undergrowth, eating grass, or drinking from puddles or water bowls outdoors, as the snails can leave deposits of lungworm larvae on their tracks.
May’s humid weather across the UK has led to predictions that snail activity will explode, meaning dogs are at greater risk of contracting lungworms.
Ms. Morris from Surrey said: “We have waited many years for a puppy and the lockdown meant that it was actually possible.
“We had never heard of lungworms. Bailey always played in the garden but we had never seen him eat snails before, but he liked to chew grass and unfortunately we now know that lungworms can even get away with licking a snail trail off grass, toys and / or bowls left outside. “
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Anne Nelson, the senior vet treating Bailey said, “When Bailey came to the office on Friday, May 14th, he was not showing the usual clinical symptoms we associate with lungworms, such as coughing, weight loss or behavior changes.
“Bailey was sent back to us the next day when we diagnosed a lungworm and referred him to a vital medicine specialist.
“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, Bailey died the next day because the lungworm had become too severe for his body to recover.”
Veterinarians caution that the signs of lungworms aren’t always obvious and, due to their inquisitive nature, puppies are particularly likely to eat snails – and the infection is much easier to prevent than cure.
According to a survey by Elanco Animal Health, 42% of dog owners don’t know what lungworms are or how they can infect their pets.
More worrisome for veterinarians is the number of dogs that are inadequately protected – the survey shows that only 21% of dog owners reported having given their dog lungworm prevention treatment in the past month.
Dr. Bryony Tolhurst, behavioral ecologist at the University of Brighton, said, “Snail slime can contain the infectious lungworm parasite that can cause disease in dogs. Given the unusually humid weather the UK has experienced this year, nudibranchs and slugs are more active and lungworm larvae can survive in their mucus for up to two weeks, potentially exposing dogs to the parasite. “
Elanco Animal Health has launched a national campaign called Open Your Eyes to Deadly Lungworms, and an online map at https://uk.mypetandi.com/lungworm-map/ can show pet owners how many cases are in a radius of 80 km are located in your postcode. That year, 2,871 cases were recorded across the country.
Vet and campaign supporter Luke Gamble said, “I’m passionate about this campaign because so many dog owners are unaware of the dangers of lungworms.
“The most important thing to understand is that over-the-counter drugs cannot protect dogs from lungworms. It is therefore important that owners speak to their veterinarian to ensure that their dog is continuously protected. “
Three steps to protecting your dog from lungworms
1. Use a lungworm treatment for parasites regularly
Your veterinarian may prescribe monthly treatment. Not all wormers, such as those for roundworms and tapeworms, are effective against lungworms, so don’t rely on over-the-counter medications.
2. Avoid lungworm hotspots
Lungworms are now endemic to much of the UK. It was traditionally restricted to the south of England and Wales, but northern England and even Scotland are now reporting cases of the parasite, warns Elanco. You can check their card to see how many cases there are in your area, but not all outbreaks are reported and your vet may have a better idea of how many cases they treated.
3. Be vigilant
Even if your area is at high risk, there are things you can do every day to reduce the chances of your dog getting lungworms.
Prevent your dog from eating slugs – if he’s sniffing anything, remove him.
Do not leave dog bowls and toys outside overnight to prevent snails from covering them with slime. Snails often look for sources of moisture, and dog bowls are ideal targets.
Clean up your dog’s leftovers. Picking up and bagging dog feces helps limit the spread of lungworms by preventing larvae in infected feces from infecting slugs, slugs, other dogs, and even foxes.