VETS are warning dog owners to monitor their pets amid rising levels of a deadly parasite.

The potentially fatal disease is caused by dogs eating slugs and snails which infects them with lungworm.

Huddersfield vet Julia Osborn, from New Hey Road practice Vets4Pets, said: “We know it’s spreading out across the country. The hidden danger arises from small slugs and snails which can be accidentally swallowed when dogs are playing with toys left out in the garden, or rummaging through the undergrowth.

“Some dogs will eat slugs but some can be absolutely tiny. Dogs that chew more are more at risk such as Labradors.

“Although dogs can become infected at any time of year, the warm and damp conditions associated with the spring and autumn months provide ideal breeding conditions for slugs and snails, increasing the risk of infection. Dogs which have picked up a lungworm infection can show a number of different symptoms.

“This lungworm often gives rise to breathing difficulties, ranging from a lack of energy to coughing. Dogs may also show general signs of being unwell including weight loss, reduced appetite and vomiting.

“Persistent bleeding, even from minor cuts is also a sign to watch out for. However, the symptoms can be varied and some dogs may appear healthy in the early stages of infection, so if owners are concerned about their dog’s health, they should contact their veterinary practice for further advice.”