One of the country’s leading parasitologists has warned vets to be on the lookout for a new zoonotic parasite being brought into the UK by rescue dogs from eastern Europe.
Vet and head of the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites UK and Ireland, Ian Wright, said “a number” of cases of Linguatula serrata – also known as tongue worm – have been “red flagged” in recent months.
The parasite lives in the nasal passageways of dogs and, although not fatal, can cause serious problems if not identified by UK vets.
Symptoms include a mucopurulent nasal discharge, epistaxis and sneezing, but infection may also be asymptomatic.
The adult parasites have tongue-shaped bodies – hence the name – but are actually more closely related to woodlice than worms.
Dr Wright said Linguatula was not endemic in this country, although cases had been reported in foxes. He said the reason it was being seen was because more dogs were being imported from eastern Europe, particularly from the “hot spot” of Romania, which was becoming a more popular, and legal, source of dogs being brought into the UK.
The dogs are infected by eating raw or undercooked viscera from animals such as cows.
Dr Wright said: “It’s uncomfortable for dogs, but not life threatening. One of the reasons we’re highlighting it is you’ve got all these dogs coming from eastern European countries and they’ve got chronic inflammation in their nasal passages, and they’re snorting and sneezing. If vets don’t diagnose it, they’re going to have real trouble getting on top of it.
“It’s very important vets are switched on and aware of this parasite coming in.”
- Read the full story in the 26 September issue of Veterinary Times.