Original article from Kent Live
Hundreds of cases of a potentially fatal parasite infection in dogs have been reported in Kent.
Angiostrongylus vasorum, better known as lungworm, is a parasite which can cause serious health problems in dogs and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated.
According to Blue Cross, a registered animal welfare charity in the UK, the parasite has been a common problem in southern areas of England for some time.
An interactive map, created by My Pet and I, provides a breakdown of the number of lungworm cases reported in each local area, including across Kent.
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Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge have recorded 52 cases this year, whilst 22 cases have been recorded in Medway.
The border of north west Kent and London is perhaps the worst impacted area, with 60 cases in West Wickham, Bromley and Orpington, 39 in Sidcup and Chislehurst, and 29 in Erith and Dartford.
You can enter your post code on the website to see how many cases there are in your area in more detail.
How does lungworm spread?
Dogs and foxes can contract the lungworm parasite by eating larvae found in infected slugs, snails and frogs.
The larvae then burrow their way into the body, finding their way to the heart and blood vessels of the lungs, where they develop into adult lungworms.
Lungworm, unlike many other diseases, is not passed directly from dog to dog, but is rather spread to the environment in the faeces of an infected animal.
The larvae can also be found in molluscs' slime trails, meaning dogs are at risk if they cross their path.
Symptoms of lungworm in dogs
Diagnosing lungworm can be difficult because symptoms vary, but they can include:
- breathing problems
- changes in behaviour or a reluctance to exercise
- abnormal blood clotting
- poor appetite and weight loss
Lungworm is a chronic disease, which can last for months and even years, and it can occasionally cause sudden death. If you spot any of the above signs, take your dog to the vet immediately.
Preventing lungworm in dogs
Blue Cross suggests talking to your vet about regular lungworm treatment and how to prevent the infection, particularly if you travel with your dog around southern England.
It says: "If you spot slugs and snails in your garden or local parks, then be extra vigilant when out with your dog, and always consult your vet as soon as possible if your dog becomes unwell."
The level of treatment for lungworm will depend on the stage of the infection. The earlier treatment is administered, the quicker your dog is likely to recover.
Lungworm requires special monthly medication to both treat and prevent infection, unlike regular dog wormers, which are often given every three months.
If left untreated the infection can be fatal, but once diagnosed and treated, many dogs will make a full recovery.
My Pet and I says lungworm infections can reoccur even after treatment, so continuous prevention is essential to safeguard your dog's health.