The risk of a dangerous parasitic infection is on the rise in Scotland, dog owners are being warned.
A recent study has revealed that dogs north of the border are under an increased risk of lungworm, which was first detected in Scotland in 2009.
With slugs and snails, which carry lungworm larvae, starting to emerge, vets are warning owners about the increased risk to their pets.
Adam Charleston, veterinary surgeon and spokesman for Scotland’s Vets4Pets practices, said: “The distribution of lungworm has spread rapidly through Scotland over the past few years. Mild, damp spring weather provides the perfect conditions for slugs and snails to become active and place dogs in regular contact with them, particularly outdoors during dusk and dawn.
“The lungworm’s life-cycle begins when larvae are produced by adult lungworms inside dogs, and even foxes, and it is then passed through their faeces.
“Slugs and snails digest the larvae from these faeces and become the hosts of the lungworm parasite, as it develops inside their system.
“As dogs explore and play outside they can easily come into contact with slugs and snails and either deliberately or accidentally eat them or ingest their slime; and then become infected.
“Symptoms of lungworm include, coughing, breathlessness, weight loss, reduced appetite and diarrhoea. In more advanced cases it can also lead to fits, blood clotting and haemorrhage.
“However these symptoms are not a definitive guarantee of lungworm infection. If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, it is best to bring them to your local vets for a blood test.”
Lungworm was initially detected in 1979 in Cornwall and South Wales, before steadily spreading to the rest of the UK.
It is now thought up to 11 per cent of slugs in the Scotland area are infected with lungworm and dog owners are being urged to follow simple precautions to keep their pets safe.
Mr Charleston added: “These new reports indicate how much lungworm has spread throughout the country and shows no area is safe from the parasite.
“Prevention is always better than cure with an illness like lungworm. There are a number of products available to keep your pet safe and protected.
“Owners should bring their dog’s toys in from the garden at night and refrain from letting them play with sticks, as these can both harbour snail and slug slime.
“If owners are worried their dog may be infected with lungworm they should seek veterinary advice, as the illness can be treated successfully if diagnosed in time.”
Further information can be found in the lungworm section of the 2015 Vet Report at www.vets4pets.com/thevetreport2015/#28-29/