LUNGWORM hotspots in Warrington have been identified after vets have issued an urgent warning over the deadly parasite.

The parasite is spread by slugs and snails and it is thought that thousands of dog owners could be walking unprotected pets.

After the damp weather across Warrington in May, experts are suggesting that slug and snail activity could explode in the UK.

This increase means that dogs can contract lungworm in the garden, by eating slugs or snails or grass, on walks, rummaging through undergrowth, and even by drinking from water bowls or puddles.

A total of 182 cases of lungworm have been reported within a 50 mile radius of Warrington.

The map shows two cases in Stockton Heath, one in Appleton, two in Grappenhall, one in Latchford, one in Great Sankey, and two in Orford.

Vets are concerned about the number of dogs that are not adequately protected against the parasite as a poll by Elanco Animal Health revealed that only 21% of dog owners surveyed had given their dog a lungworm preventative treatment in the past month.

Another survey showed that 42% of dog owners are not aware of what lungworm is or how it can infect dogs.

Dr Bryony Tolhurst, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Brighton, said: “The slime of slugs and snails can contain the infective lungworm parasite that can cause disease in dogs.

“With the unusually damp weather the UK has been experiencing this year, slugs and snails are more active, and lungworm larvae can survive for up to two weeks in their slime, potentially exposing dogs to the parasite.”

Vets are warning that the signs of lungworm are not always obvious, and puppies can be especially likely to eat slugs and snails, due to their inquisitive nature.

The infection is much easier to prevent than it is to cure, experts say.