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Heartworm confirmed in scotland


ONE OF the most feared canine parasites which can cause fatal illness in dogs has been found in Scotland, scientists have confirmed.

Experts said that the parasite Angiostrongylus vasorum, also known as the 'French heartworm', could be moving north because of climate change and warmer conditions prevailing in more northern countries in Europe.

The parasite carried by slugs and snails which have increased in number in Scotland because of recent warm temperatures. The parasite is more commonly found in Southwest England, but scientists said it could be moving northwards because of increasing temperatures.

Other parasites are now almost routinely being found in northern Europe where previously temperatures would have been cold for them to survive. Some dogs have brought the parasites into the UK by becoming infected whilst holidaying with their owners abroad.

Signs that a dog is infected include coughing, breathing difficulties and unexplained bleeding problems. It is thought the one-year-old dog became ill after swallowing a slug infected with the organism or eating grass with a fresh slug trail on it.

Vets in Glasgow recently treated a Weimaraner which had contracted the parasite. Professor John Gilleard, from the University of Glasgow's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, said: ‘We found the larvae in the dog’s faeces and after running some specialised PCR tests confirmed it was the French heartworm parasite. The dog had never left Glasgow so it had to have come into contact with the parasite here.’

Staff at the university's vet school urged dog owners to be alert to the symptoms of infection, as dogs can make a full recovery if given the correct treatment.

Small Animal Hospital Vet Jenny Helm, who treated the animal, said: ‘Dog owners and veterinary surgeons should be aware that the parasite has arrived in Scotland. This parasite can cause serious diseases and death is not unknown. If owners suspect their dog may be infected with the parasite they should contact their local vet immediately.’