Bayer Animal Health has launched a nationwide big snail count to help dog owners recognise the link between mollusc activity in their gardens and the risk of lungworm to their pet.
Further engagement will be encouraged via a competition asking participants to submit their pictures to the Facebook page, using the #bigsnailcount hashtag, and prizes will be awarded under five categories.
The data will support the company’s Act On Lungworm campaign for 2015 and provide new data on the spread of the parasite (Angiostrongylus vasorum).
With support from Dave Hodgson, senior lecturer in ecology at the University of Exeter, the count aims to make dog owners more aware of the ways their pet can 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 said: “This is the first time data collection on this scale has been conducted around slug and snail prevalence and we are very excited to discover any regional trends that may exist across the country.
“Building on the success of last year’s Slimewatch campaign we hope these new insights will help us further understand mollusc behaviour and the resulting impact on the spread of lungworm.”
Evidence from the Royal Veterinary College showed the lungworm parasite had 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.
Bayer product manager Donna Tomlinson said the count would provide an educational platform for families to learn more about slug and snail populations in their gardens.
She added: “It will also reinforce the important need to remain aware of the lungworm parasite.”
Dogs can become infected after swallowing slugs or snails carrying the lungworm larvae. While some dogs are obviously at risk due to eating slugs and snails on purpose, a hidden danger arises from small slugs and snails, which can be accidentally swallowed when dogs are drinking from outdoor water bowls, eating grass, playing with toys left out in the garden, or rummaging through the undergrowth.
Once inside the dog’s system, the parasite travels through the body eventually ending up in the heart. Left untreated, the dog’s health can rapidly deteriorate, and can result in death.