Alan Lee and Ruth Hutchinson are fronting the nationwide Be Lungworm Aware campaign after their Fox Labrador Angus died suddenly as a result of the lungworm parasite, which is spread by common slugs and snails.
Angus showed no obvious symptoms of lungworm so his death came as a complete shock to the couple, as Ruth explained: “Alan was away in Ireland and I was at home with Angus. I went up to bed as normal and Angus followed me upstairs.
“At around 3am, Angus woke me up with a long howl, he was on Alan’s pillow next to me and he just collapsed and died in front of me. There was nothing I could do. He was asleep and then he just died.”
She added: “Angus wasn’t poorly before he died. We went out for a walk and he was running around happily in the garden the day he died.
“Our vet performed a postmortem and discovered he had died from lungworm.
“We were utterly gobsmacked as we thought the regular wormer we gave him treated all worms, including lungworm, but it did not. If we had know of these dangers, we would have protected Angus.”
Lungworm is a parasite that dogs can become infected with after eating common garden slugs and snails carrying the larvae, or potentially even after swallowing the slime of an infected slug. If the infection is left untreated, the dog’s health can rapidly deteriorate and can even result in death.
Now, to help raise awareness of the parasite, Alan and Ruth, of Annesley, are joining other owners and vets nationwide in support of the national Be Lungworm Aware campaign by Bayer Animal Health and appear in the TV advert for the campaign.
“Ruth and I are very open about our experience with Angus,” Alan said. “Even if we save one dog’s life from sharing our story we will be happy. We wouldn’t want Angus to have died in vain.”
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. It’s now widespread in central England and has reached northern regions and Scotland, with one in five vet practices nationwide reporting at least one case of the parasite.
Mark Bossley, chief vet at 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.”
Dog owners can check the risk in their area by searching their postcode at www.lungworm.co.uk/map.