Scotland-Dogs face deadly new disease

Discussion in 'Health & Nutritional Care' started by Vicki, May 23, 2009.

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    Dogs face deadly new disease

    Published Date: 24 May 2009
    By Jeremy Watson

    DOG-OWNERS have been warned to watch out for a potentially fatal worm disease after confirmation of the first recorded case in Scotland.

    Lungworm is endemic in parts of southern England after spreading from the continent in the 1990s.

    But veterinary organisations say more cases are now expected north of the Border following the spread of the dangerous parasite.

    They believe this is a result of a combination of climate change and an uncontrolled increase in the number of foxes, which spread the parasite.

    Experts claim lungworm cases in the UK have now reached several hundred annually, although precise figures are difficult to collate because the disease is not notifiable. A Bristol University study found that 14 per cent of dogs with respiratory disease tested positive for the worm.

    Dogs can catch it after eating snails or slugs infected with worm larvae. The larvae develop into adults and spread through the animal's body, causing coughing, breathing problems and bleeding, which can be fatal unless treated early.

    The first case in Scotland, reported in the latest edition of the Journal of Small Animal Medicine, involved a one-year-old male Weimaraner hunting dog called Oscar.

    The dog, which had not travelled outside central Scotland, was sent by a vet for diagnosis by experts at Glasgow University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. It recovered after treatment with specific anti-worming drugs.

    Dr Mark Jackson, one of the team who diagnosed the case, said: "This happened last year but we have had anecdotal reports that there have been other cases in the Glasgow and Clyde Valley area. It can be fatal if someone doesn't recognise the symptoms.

    "UK-wide, there are now likely to be hundreds of cases annually, but all we know for certain is that it is spreading."

    Oscar's owner, catering manager John Clark, from Renfrew, said he believed his pet had become infected during his daily walks in a Glasgow park.

    "Oscar became ill and just wasn't himself," Clark said. "His eyes were all bloodshot and he wouldn't eat. He wasn't really moving and acting very strangely."

    He was referred on to the veterinary hospital by a vet who was unable to explain the dog's illness.

    "He was in there for a week while they did tests and eventually we were told he had lungworm," Clark said.

    "After treatment he was back to his old self again within two weeks and ever since he's been absolutely fine."

    The veterinary charity PDSA also believes there has been an upsurge in cases of lungworm nationally. Senior veterinary surgeon Elaine Pendlebury said: "Lungworm is now spreading across the country. It was previously confined to Wales and the south-west, but is now seen in many areas of the UK.

    "This should remind pet owners of the importance of getting their pet regularly wormed by their vet."

    Lungworm – known scientifically as Angiostrongylus vasorum – is endemic in Denmark and France and is believed to have arrived in the UK from Ireland in the mid-1970s in an imported greyhound.

    The spread north is being attributed to a combination of factors including climate change and fox migration.

    A series of warm, wet summers in the UK has led to big increases in snail and slug numbers, exposing more domestic pets to the parasite.

    In addition, the large rise in fox numbers throughout the country and their spread into British cities and towns has also meant a greater spread of infection.

    The spread of lungworm is also being monitored by ESCCAP, a European group of veterinary parasite experts, which says the spread of lungworm is now a national threat to the canine world.

    Director Maggie Fisher said: "Our advice to dog owners is to be aware that their pets may eat slugs and snails and try to prevent it. If they suspect their dog may have the disease then seek the advice of a vet to find out which worming treatments are suitable."

    Pendlebury added: "If an owner suspects that their dog or cat could be infected they should take their pet along to see their vet. For example, if their pet is coughing or has eaten a slug or snail, it is important that they consult their vet as soon as possible."

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