More than one hundred cases of a potentially deadly canine infection have been reported in west London.
An interactive map, produced by Act Against Lungworm, revealed there are currently around 162 cases of the infection in the region.
Lungworm, an infection caused by a parasite named angiostrongylus vasorum, can cause serious health problems for dogs and can be deadly if not diagnosed and treated quickly.
The lungworm infection has been announced as an endemic in the UK and canines of all breeds and ages, especially younger dogs, are affected.
According to Lungworm.co.uk, there are currently 162 infected dogs in west London and one area is home to nearly half of these.
In the Westminster area alone, there are 76 dogs infected with the lungworm parasite, more than any other area in the region in west London.
You can enter your post code on the website to see how many cases of the infection there are in your area.
But what exactly is lungworm - and why is it such a danger to your pets?
What is lungworm?
Lungworm is a parasite which can infect dogs of any age and breed.
Although it does not have any known effect on humans, it can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated when a dog is infected.
Also known as French heartworm, the lungworms are pink in colour and are around 14 to 20 millimetres long.
How could my dog catch it?
The lungworm larvae are carried by slugs and snails and dogs can become infected when they eat these garden pests accidentally or deliberately.
Dogs can find these molluscs when rummaging through undergrowth, eating grass, drinking from puddles or water bowls or from their toys.
It's not just dogs which become infected by lungworm, other animals such as foxes and badgers can also be affected.
Cats are not affected by this type of infection but can be affected by another type of lungworm, known as aelurostrongylus abstrusus.
How do I know if my dog is infected?
Lungworm infections can result in a number of different signs, some of which may easily be confused with other illnesses.
Some dogs don’t initially show visible signs of a lungworm infection, but some to look out for include changed behaviour, breathing problems, poor blood clotting, seizures, bleeding into the eye and general sickness.
Vets can perform tests which may help detect if your dog is infected - improved detection methods, including blood tests and poo sampling, mean more and more cases are now being confirmed.
If you are concerned about any of the side effects above, arrange a check up with your vet - even as a precaution.
How is it treated and how can it be prevented?
Treatment is available and can result in full recovery, but as this parasite can be fatal owners should consider prevention.
Preventative products are available and with regular monthly use prevention is easy to achieve, vets can recommend a parasite control programme for your dog.
For lungworm it is vital to use suitable preventative products monthly and, unfortunately, treatment only every 3 months leaves the dog unprotected against lungworm, risking disease and even death.
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