Parasite Alert: Snails Can Be Dangerous for Dogs

Snails are faster than one might think, easily covering a meter an hour. That’s what researchers at the University of Exeter found when they tracked 450 garden snails using LEDs and UV paint. Accordingly, the mollusks also like to use a kind of slime trail slipstream. The fact that snails move quite quickly has its downside: the lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum, a life-threatening parasite for dogs, travels with them. In Great Britain, thanks to years rich in snails, it has already spread from its ancestral home in the south to Scotland.

Snails on the trail

The team led by ecologist Dave Hodgeson has for the first time accurately recorded the nocturnal activity of snails using LED lights attached to the animals’ backs and time-lapse recordings. They also used UV colors to make the tracks of the reptiles visible. “The results show snails traveling up to 25 meters in 24 hours,” Hodgeson said. The 72-hour experiment also shed light on how the animals explore their surroundings, where they seek refuge, and exactly how they move.

“We found that snails move in convoys, sort of piggybacking on the slime of other snails,” says the ecologist. The reason for this is simple. So when a mollusk follows an existing trail, it’s a bit like slipstreaming, Hodgeson is quoted by the BBC as saying. This is because the snail saves energy, and potentially significantly so. According to estimates, 30 to 40 percent of the reptiles’ energy requirements are due to the production of slime.

Parasites are transported

The results were included in the “Slime Watch” report by the British campaign Be Lungworm Aware. This wants to draw attention to how quickly the dog parasite Angiostrongylus vasorum can spread with snails. Dogs can easily swallow it with even the smallest slugs found on toys or in puddles, for example. The parasites then invade the lungs and, depending on the severity of the infestation, symptoms are ranging from fits of coughing, bleeding, vomiting, and diarrhea to circulatory failure. If there is a suspicion that a dog is infected with lungworm, a veterinarian should be consulted immediately – then the disease can also be easily treated.

The parasite, which originally occurs primarily in France, Denmark, and England, has spread more and more in recent years, not only in Great Britain. Dieter Barutzki from the Freiburg Veterinary Laboratory published a study in 2010, according to which this type of lungworm is now relatively widespread, especially in southwest Germany. In this country, too, snails are an important intermediate host and thus pose a risk of infection for man’s best friend.

Ava Williams

Written by Ava Williams

Hello, I'm Ava! I have been writing professionally for just over 15 years. I specialize in writing informative blog posts, breed profiles, pet care product reviews, and pet health and care articles. Prior to and during my work as a writer, I spent about 12 years in the pet care industry. I have experience as a kennel supervisor and professional groomer. I also compete in dog sports with my own dogs. I also have cats, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

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