Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Sunday, 6 July 2008 13:47 UK

Deadly dog parasite found in city

Weimaraner generic
The parasite infected a Weimaraner dog which needed urgent treatment

A parasite which can cause fatal illness in dogs has been found in Scotland for the first time, scientists have confirmed.

Experts said that the parasite Angiostrongylus vasorum, also known as the 'French heartworm', could be moving north because of climate change.

It is carried by slugs and snails which have increased in number in Scotland because of recent warm temperatures.

Vets in Glasgow recently treated a Weimaraner which had the parasite.

Signs that a dog is infected by the parasite include coughing, breathing difficulties and unexplained bleeding problems, including spontaneous bruising and bleeding into the eye.

The dog had never left Glasgow so it had to have come into contact with the parasite here
Professor John Gilleard

It is thought the one-year-old dog became ill after swallowing a slug infected with the organism or eating grass with a fresh slug trail on it.

The parasite is normally found in south west England, but scientists said it could be moving northwards because of increasing temperatures.

Professor John Gilleard, from the University of Glasgow's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, said: "We found the larvae in the faeces and after running some specialised PCR tests confirmed it was the French heartworm parasite.

"The dog had never left Glasgow so it had to have come into contact with the parasite here."

Staff at the university's vet school urged dog owners to be alert to the symptoms of infection, as dogs can make a full recovery if given the correct treatment.

Small Animal Hospital Vet Jenny Helm, who treated the animal, said: "Dog owners and veterinary surgeons should be aware that the parasite has arrived in Scotland.

"This parasite can cause serious diseases and death is not unknown.

"If owners suspect their dog may be infected with the parasite they should contact their local vet immediately."

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