DOGS bought over lockdown could be at risk from the deadly parasite lungworm, warn vets.

Easily preventable, lungworm can be deadly to dogs and there have been more than 180 cases reported within a 50-mile radius of Bournemouth.

The vicious blood sucker is spread by slugs and snails - and vets estimate that thousands of pet owners are walking unprotected dogs.

Dogs can be infected with the potentially fatal parasite when they eat common slugs and snails in their garden or on walks.

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They can also pick up lungworm while rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or picking it up from their toys.

Due to the damp weather in May, experts suggest slug and snail activity will rapidly increase, meaning dogs are at greater risk of contracting lungworm in the garden, on walks and even by drinking from water bowls or puddles.

Elanco’s Lungworm Map shows that rates have been spreading year on year within the UK, there are currently 189 reported cases within a 50 mile radius of Bournemouth.

A survey from Elanco Animal Health indicates that 42 percent of dog owners are not aware of what lungworm is or how it can infect their pet.

This has led to growing concern among vets over the number of dogs that are not adequately protected.

The poll revealed that only 21 per-cent of dog owners surveyed had given their dog a lungworm preventative treatment in the past month.

Dr Bryony Tolhurst, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Brighton, said: “The slime of slugs and snails can contain the infective lungworm parasite that can cause disease in dogs.

“With the unusually damp weather the UK has been experiencing this year, slugs and snails are more active, and lungworm larvae can survive for up to two weeks in their slime, potentially exposing dogs to the parasite.”

What are the signs?

Vets are warning that the signs of lungworm are not always obvious, and puppies can be especially likely to eat slugs and snails, due to their inquisitive nature.

The infection is much easier to prevent than it is to cure, experts say.

Elanco’s new campaign – Open your eyes to deadly lungworm – warns owners of the effect parasites can have on their dogs.

Luke Gamble, veterinarian and campaign supporter, said: “I care passionately about this campaign because so many dog owners are unaware of the dangers of lungworm.

“The key thing is understanding that over-the-counter medications can’t protect dogs against lungworm, so it’s vital owners speak to their vet to make sure their dog is continuously protected.”