Page last updated at 02:30 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 03:30 UK

Slug and snail rise could prove fatal to dogs

Slug on a dog bowl
Slugs and snails thrive when the weather has been damp

A rise in the number of slugs and snails could prove fatal to dogs if they eat them, vets are warning.

The warmer but wetter weather is perfect for the molluscs, which can harbour the parasite lungworm.

Although dogs do not eat slugs or snails on purpose, they may ingest them accidentally if they fall into their bowls or attach onto bones or toys.

The One Show's resident vet, Joe Inglis, said owners should look out for symptoms including bleeding and fits.

Other symptoms include coughing, lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness and paralysis.

Slugs and snails are mostly found in warm, damp areas such as footpaths on field boundaries where there are ditches and woodland areas; two common dog walking locations.

Climate change

A campaign of awareness is being undertaken by Bayer Animal Health, a business which focuses on animal healthcare and crop science.

A spokesperson said although the disease is predominately found in south Wales, London and the south East, in recent years cases of lungworm in dogs have been reported in the Midlands and Scotland.

Maggie Fisher from ESCCAP UK, a not for profit organisation whose members are veterinarians with a recognised expertise in the field of parasitology, said climate change could have a "profound effect on parasite distribution".

"Factors such as warmer, wetter summers that favour slug and snail populations could be assisting this lungworm to establish in new areas," she said.

A survey of 1,241 dog owners by Opinion Matters in November found that three-quarters of dog owners were unaware that slugs and snails could prove fatal if their dogs eat them.

Mr Inglis said he would "strongly recommend" concerned owners to seek advice from their vet should they think their dog may be at risk of infection.

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