The number of dogs suffering from deadly parasites has increased significantly, according to research.

PDSA vets across the country claimed that they have seen the number of pooches infected by lungworm treble.

Symptoms of infection include breathing difficulties, a chronic cough and weight loss. It also causes difficulty in exercising for many dogs.

The main areas in the country where this created problems were in Wales and southern England, however the issue is now much more common.

Commenting on the findings, PDSA senior vet Elaine Pendlebury said, said: “PDSA is alerting dog owners to the danger of lungworm as there has been a significant increase in suspected and confirmed cases of lungworm over the past five years.

“Although it has been present in parts of the UK for a long time, the parasite seems to be spreading and there have been outbreaks in previously unaffected areas. But we believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and the problem could be more widespread."

Dogs can fall prey to the infection by eating snails and slugs, which are often hosts of the worm. Similarly, eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls can create problems for dogs.

Foxes can also carry the disease and a dog can become infected after eating the faeces of affected animals.

PDSA research showed that a total of 952 suspected cases were reported in the UK, which resulted in 81 deaths.

Ms Pendlebury explained that any owner that suspects their dog may have the worm, should bring their pets in for a check-up as soon as possible.

She added: "It’s important to ensure your pets receive regular preventive worming treatment, including specific products for lungworm in affected areas, so they do not become ill. Your vet will able to advise what’s best for your dog and remember to clean up after your dog to help avoid spreading the parasite."

Written by: Hannah