Killer bug warning for pet owners

Lungworm parasite
Lungworm parasite
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WIGAN pet owners are being reminded of the importance of regularly worming animals after an increase in cases of the fatal parasite lungworm.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) say there has been a worrying increase in reported cases of lungworm among pets, particularly in Greater Manchester.

The parasitic worm can cause weight loss, difficulty breathing, a chronic cough and difficulty exercising and even be fatal.

PDSA senior vet Elaine Pendlebury said that, since 2009, there has been a threefold increase in the number of pets affected by lungworm.

Lungworm is often transmitted by infected slugs or snails that carry the parasite and can even be contracted by a dog drinking from puddles or using toys or bowls that have been left outside. It can also be caught by eating infected fox or dog faeces.

Elaine said: “PDSA is alerting dog owners to the danger of lungworm as there has been a significant increase in suspected and confirmed cases of lungworm over the past five years.

“Although it has been present in parts of the UK for a long time, the parasite seems to be spreading and there have been outbreaks in previously unaffected areas. But we believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and the problem could be more widespread.”

Elaine warned the parasite may have become more prevalent due to our warmer and more humid summers, which has caused the slug and snail population to increase.

Elaine added: “It’s important to ensure your pets receive regular preventive worming treatment, including specific products for lungworm in affected areas, so they do not become ill. Your vet will able to advise what’s best for your dog and remember to clean up after your dog to help avoid spreading the parasite.

“If an owner suspects that their dog could be infected, they should take their pet along to see their vet as soon as possible, as early treatment is always best.”

One local case saw Greyhound Blackie left fighting for his life after becoming infected with lungworm.

His owner, Pam Falconer, 68, of said: “We initially thought Blackie had hurt himself because he had fallen over. But he was displaying other symptoms and looked really unwell.

“They told me they didn’t know whether he would survive and I was absolutely terrified. A few worming tablets every few months could be the difference between life and death.”