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Lungworm: 'The best advice is for dog owners to know it's here'

PUBLISHED: 14:12 11 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:41 12 May 2019

Young couple with Beagle dog wearing in collar and leash walking in the summer park. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Young couple with Beagle dog wearing in collar and leash walking in the summer park. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Dog owners are being warned to be vigilant for a potentially fatal dog disease, which although rare in Norfolk has been reported in the county.

Once only confined to 'hotspots' in the south of the England, lungworm - a type of parasite which affects dogs and foxes- is now considered to be an emerging disease which is becoming more common across the country.

A parasitic infection, lungworm cannot be passed directly from dog to dog, instead the worm uses slugs and snails as hosts in order to grow and it is when dogs come into contact with any of these creatures, or their slime that they can become infected.

To date there have been 2,762 confirmed cases of lungworm in the UK, 40 of which have been reported within 50 miles of Norwich and 10 within in the NR postcode.

But, Tom Robertson, the clinical director at Taverham Veterinary Hospital said despite the increased number of cases across the country Norfolk was still a relatively low risk area.

He said: "We see occasional cases [of lungworm] but they are few and far between, Norfolk is still a very low risk county."

Mr Robertson said the signs a dog is infected with lungworm can sometimes be hard to spot.

He said: "Lungworm presents us with a whole multitude of problems but some of the [cases] we have seen are the ones with bleeding disorders, if a dog comes in with unexplained bleeding that's one of the things we look for, the classic symptom is coughing.

"Norfolk is relatively safe, but Lungworm is here, it's definitely around but it's not a common problem we see here," he said.

Adding that he believed the best advice for dog owners was for them to be aware lungworm was in Norfolk and to have a chat with their vet about worming treatments next time their pet had a checkup, Mr Robertson said: "There are different ways of protecting dogs and there are some areas where you must treat dogs every month.

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"Here we still recommend a [worming] treatment every three months but we're always reviewing that.

"I think the best advice for dog owners is to know [lungworm] is here and to have a chat their vet," he said.

A map showing recorded confirmed cases of lungworm can be found via: https://mypetandi.bayer.com/uk/lungworm-map.

What is lungworm?

Lungworm is a type of parasitic worm which primarily affects dogs and foxes, if left untreated it can be fatal.

The disease can affect all dogs with younger more playful dogs more prone to picking up the infection.

Lungworm cannot be passed directly from dog to dog, instead the parasite uses slugs and snails as hosts in order to grow and develop. It's when dogs come into contact with any of these creatures that they can become infected.

This can mean either eating a slug or snail or licking their slime, which can be on toys, sticks or water bowls.

Signs of infection can be difficult to diagnose with some dogs showing no or very few symptoms.

Among the most common symptoms are coughing, breathing problems, vomiting, weight loss, diarrhoea and tiredness, excessive bleeding from small cuts and changes in behaviour.

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