Hundreds of dogs in Hampshire have been struck down by lungworm, according to new research.

The disease can be deadly with millions of dog owners unaware of rising cases across the country.

In Hampshire alone, there have been 593 reported cases of lungworm.

While just over half of dog owners are aware of lungworm, 39 per cent admitted they didn’t know exactly what it is, and a further one in ten, were unaware of lungworm entirely.

In Hampshire, there were 593 reported cases of lung worm.

Thousands of cases of the potentially fatal disease have been reported across the UK, with a fifth of the dog owners saying that their own dog has had a case of lungworm, while a quarter know a dog who has had a case of it.

A total of 19 per cent of dog owners whose pet has actually had a case of lungworm admitted they still weren’t entirely sure what it is, while five per cent didn’t know at all.

Vets4Pets, who carried out the research, is now working with Bayer to help inform owners of the dangers of this deadly parasite.

Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “Our research has discovered that awareness, and particularly knowledge, of the parasite lungworm is still pretty low amongst UK dog owners.

“It appears that many people still don’t fully understand how their dogs can contract it, what threats it poses and how important, and easy, prevention is.

“Most worryingly a third of those surveyed admitted they don’t currently give their dog any preventative treatment to protect their dog against lungworm.

“There are many simple steps owners can take to help prevent their dog contracting lungworm, but ensuring your dog is given lungworm preventative treatment prescribed by your vet monthly, is really the only way of keeping them completely safe and protected.”

Lungworm is a parasite that can be deadly to dogs if ingested. It uses multiple animals to help complete its lifecycle, with dogs and foxes as the primary hosts, and slugs, snails and even frogs as the intermediate hosts.

Vets4Pets’ research found that less than a third of dog owners were able to correctly identify that slugs and snails spread the lungworm parasite.

A total of 13 per cent thought the parasite is spread by sheep or rats, and six per cent of UK dog owners even thought otters were to blame.

Evidence shows that foxes are also spreading the disease, which only 13 per cent of those surveyed knew, as they can host the parasite, alongside dogs.