The humid weather has put dogs at greater risk from a deadly parasite called lungworm, which is spread by snails.
A Brighton University academic Bryony Tolhurst has stepped up a warning from veterinarians particularly aimed at new dog owners.
Veterinarians fear that thousands of people who bought dogs during the coronavirus lockdowns may not be aware of the lungworm threat.
And with the recent rain, experts believe snail activities could explode, putting dogs at risk in the garden, on walks, and even while drinking from water bowls or puddles.
Dr. Tolhurst, behavioral ecologist at Brighton University, said, âThe slime from slugs 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.”
The warnings also come after animal health company Elanco Animal Health shared the results of a survey.
It suggested that 42 percent of dog owners didn’t know what lungworm was or how it could infect dogs.
Elanco said numbers from animal rights groups suggested there has been a surge in people buying pets recently as they for company during the lockdown.
However, the vets were more concerned about the number of dogs without adequate protection. The survey found that only 21 percent of the dog owners surveyed had given their dog lungworm prevention in the past month.
Dogs can become infected with the potentially deadly parasite when they eat nudibranchs in the garden or on walks.
They can also pick up lungworms while rummaging in the undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or water bowls outdoors – or even fetching them from their toys.
Elanco cited the case of Bailey, a five-month-old retriever puppy who was diagnosed with lungworm last month after being with his new family for just a few months.
They were not aware of the need to prevent lungworms.
Bailey’s owner Rachel Morris from Surrey said: âWe have waited many years for a puppy and the lockdown made it possible to do so. We had never heard of lungworms before.
âBailey was always playing in the garden and we had never eaten him snails or slugs before, but he liked to chew grass.
“And unfortunately we now know that lungworms can even develop if you lick a snail trail from grass, toys or bowls left outside.”
Anne Nelson, the senior vet who treated the puppy, said, âBehaved as Bailey on Friday the 14th.
âBailey 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 passed away the next day because the lungworm had become too severe for his body to recover.”
Vets warn that the signs of lungworms aren’t always obvious – and puppies are particularly likely to eat snails due to their inquisitive nature.
According to experts, the infection is much easier to prevent than it is to cure. Elanco urges owners to “open their eyes to deadly lungworms” and warns owners of the effects parasites can have on their dogs.
Another vet, Luke Gamble, said, âI’m passionate about this campaign because so many dog ââowners are unaware of the dangers of lungworms.
âThe 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. “
Lungworms have spread across the UK, with 2,871 cases reported across the country, according to Elanco’s “Lungworm Map” which pet owners can use to check how many cases are in their area.
The online survey was conducted by YouGov. The total sample was 2,003 adults, of whom 535 were dog owners – and the fieldwork was done between Wednesday June 2 and Thursday June 3.