The Big Snail Count aims to increase owner’s vigilance for any signs of a lungworm infection
With evidence suggesting the lungworm parasite - which can be potentially fatal for dogs - is spreading across the UK, a nationwide ecological experiment called the ‘The Big Snail Count’ is launching to help pet owners recognise the link between mollusc activity in their gardens and the risk of lungworm to their pet.
The campaign, by Bayer Animal Health, will encourage families across the UK to take part in a ten minute timed snail and slug count within their gardens and local parks, recording and submitting data on prevalence, location and activity to the ‘It’s A Jungle Out There’ Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jungleforpets).
Further engagement will be encouraged via a competition asking participants to submit their pictures to the Facebook page, using the #bigsnailcount hashtag, prizes will be awarded under five unique categories. These will include: biggest slug or snail, smallest slug or snail, strangest looking slug or snail, most unusual location, best photo and a bonus prize for documenting a rare snail breed.
Dogs can become infected after accidentally swallowing slugs or snails carrying the lungworm larvae. Once inside the system, the parasite travels through the dog’s body eventually ending up in the heart. Left untreated, the dog’s health can rapidly deteriorate, and can even result in death.
Evidence from the Royal Veterinary College confirms the lungworm parasite has spread across the UK, from its traditional habitat in the south of England and Wales, and is now widespread in Central England, also reaching northern regions and Scotland, with one in five vet practices nationwide reporting at least one case of the parasite.
With support from Dr Dave Hodgson, Senior Lecturer in Ecology at Exeter University, the ‘Big Snail Count’ aims to make dog owners more aware of the opportunities their pet has to interact with slugs and snails on a daily basis and in doing so, increase their vigilance for any signs of a lungworm infection.
Dr Hodgson says: “This is the first time ever a data collection on this scale has been conducted around slug and snail prevalence and we are very excited to discover any regional trends which may exist across the country. We hope these new insights will help us better understand mollusc behaviour and the resulting impact on the spread of lungworm.”
Mark Bossley, chief vet at the UK’s leading animal charity, Blue Cross, said: “We regularly advise dog owners of the dangers of lungworm because, sadly, we see so many cases every year. It is a hidden killer so we urge dog owners to talk to their vet about preventative treatments and be vigilant with their dogs when in the garden or on walks.”
‘The Big Snail Count’ is part of Bayer Animal Health’s wider ‘Act On Lungworm’ parasite protection initiative. You can help spread the word, and read the experiences of other owners at www.facebook.com/jungleforpets or alternatively follow ‘JungleForPets’ on Twitter and visit www.lungworm.co.uk for more information.