Dog owners are being warned about a potentially fatal parasite that has can be found across Essex.

In total 1367 cases of lungworm have been reported in a 50-mile radius across the county.

The parasite, which can require immediate veterinary assistance, lives among slugs and snails.

Dogs can be affected when eating the slugs and snails, and ingesting lungworm larvae.

A new interactive map, produced by Elanco, shows where lungworm has been reported across the UK.

Echo: Lungworm spots located in South Essex (Elanco)Lungworm spots located in South Essex (Elanco)

Where can lungworm be found in Essex?

Several spots for lungworm are dotted around Southend, as well as in Billericay, Chelmsford, Basildon, Braintree, Colchester, Witham, Tiptree and West Mersea.

Other locations include near Woodham Ferrers, Canvey Island, Halstead, Rayleigh, Hullbridge, Rudley Green and south of Weeley Heath.

You can view the full map here.

Echo: Lungworm spots near Colchester (Elanco)Lungworm spots near Colchester (Elanco)

What is lungworm?

Officially known as Angiostrongylus vasorum, the parasite can cause severe illness among dogs, eventually leading to death if not caught in time.

The PDSA has said that despite its name, the parasite travels around the whole body and can cause breathing difficulties, heart failure, seizures and bleeding disorders.

Symptoms can be difficult to spot because they are often very vague and varied, but common symptoms include the following.

  • Coughing
  • Breathing problems (fast, heavy, noisy)
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained bruising and bleeding
  • Seizures
  • Collapse and shock
  • Blindness

What should you do if your dog gets lungworm?

Vets across the country say that dog owners should contact their local practice immediately if their dog is showing any symptoms of lungworm.

The PDSA say this is because treatment depends on how severe the infection is and what symptoms they are experiencing, which requires medical attention.

It said that vets will tend to kill the lungworm at the first opportunity, although this process is critical, meanwhile certain cases may require hospitalisation.

It said: "Mild lungworm infections often only require lungworm treatment and medication to go home with, but if your dog is seriously ill, they may need intensive care in the veterinary hospital."