Dog owners and walkers have been warned against a potentially fatal parasite as an interactive map has revealed where cases have been reported so far.

Damp weather can cause slug and snail activity to explode, meaning dogs are at greater risk of contracting lungworm in the garden, on walks and even by drinking from water bowls or puddles.

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

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.

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The map below shows there are multiple hotspots in Buckinghamshire where lungworm cases have been reported.

The site My Pet and I reported there are 1,565 cases within a 50 mile radius of High Wycombe.

Bucks Free Press: The map shows locations where lungworm cases have been reported. The numbers indicate the number of cases [My Pet and I]The map shows locations where lungworm cases have been reported. The numbers indicate the number of cases [My Pet and I]

What is lungworm?

The map has been created due to the sheer seriousness lungworm can present if not treated in a timely manner.

Officially known as Angiostrongylus vasorum, the parasite can cause severe illness among dogs, eventually leading to death if not caught in time.

The PDSA has said that despite its name, the parasite travels around the whole body and cause breathing difficuties, heart failure, seizures and bleeding disorders.

What are the symptoms?

The common symptons include the following:

- Coughing

- Breathing problems (fast, heavy, noisy)

- Weight loss

- Unexplained bruising and bleeding

- Seizures

- Collapse and shock

- Blindness 

A survey from Elanco Animal Health indicates 42 per cent of dog owners are not aware of what lungworm is or how it can infect dogs.

But vets are more concerned at 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.”

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 parasite 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.”