Veterinarians are warning that a potentially deadly brain parasite currently piggybacking on an invasive species of snail poses as much of a risk to dogs as it does to humans.
The parasitic apple snail, an invasive species native to South America, is creeping through the Southwest desert and the East Coast, and state wildlife officials are now sounding the alarm in North Carolina.
The snails are known to be carriers of rat lungworm – this can endanger dogs, with symptoms starting with weakness in the hind legs, followed by paralysis of the hind legs and spreading throughout the dog’s body, including brain damage.
A veterinarian in Hawaii, where apple snails are a recurring problem, said puppies are at particular risk.
“The dogs at this age, around six to nine weeks, are curious,” the veterinarian noted. “They put everything in their mouths.”
Livestock farmers in the southern United States have become aware of infected apple snails. If your dog is digging in the undergrowth, drinking from puddles, eating grass, or just sniffing around outside, he is at risk of becoming infected with rat lungworm, which apple snails can transmit
North Carolina wildlife officials said the apple snail’s egg masses can be destroyed by “crushing and scraping them into the water” with a nearby tool such as a stick, rock or boat paddle. State officials urged citizens to ensure the eggs sink
On Monday, North Carolina warned residents that invasive snail species — which can be deadly to humans and devastating to river life — have been positively identified along the state’s Lumber River in the state’s south-central region.
The apple snail, which came to the United States as a popular aquarium subject, has previously been observed by parks and wildlife managers in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, California, Arizona and other southern states.
Authorities in North Carolina are urging residents to freeze or crush the snails but not to touch them or their bright pink egg masses because they are filled with toxins that can cause skin and eye rashes.
While the apple snail has already invaded Europe, Asia and other U.S. states like Hawaii, this week’s sightings are the first ever recorded in North Carolina.
It joins the venomous, slime-covered hammerhead worm on the list of slimy invasive worm species that have spread along the East Coast of the U.S. in recent years.
Hilo, Hawaii-based veterinarian Dr. Alfred Mina told Honolulu Civil Beat that he sees several cases of rat lungworm every month, which could be treated if caught early.
Veterinarians are warning that a potentially deadly brain parasite currently escaping from an invasive snail species poses as much of a risk to dogs as it does to humans. Puppies are particularly at risk, according to a veterinarian in Hawaii, where apple snails are a nuisance
“We gave them corticosteroids, then an antibiotic, then a dewormer and painkillers,” Mina told the website.
“The majority recover if caught early.” “There are only a few cases where recovery takes longer when the condition was already painful and they could barely walk.”
According to Dr. Mina can use a common heartworm medication for dogs, such as Moxidectin or Pro-Heart, to effectively prevent or treat rat lungworm.
However, sometimes pet owners and veterinarians can mistake rat lungworm infection for joint pain or inflammation, leading to ineffective treatments that give the parasite more time to spread.
Erin Rupert, the owner of a French bulldog in Hawaii, described her dog’s case as “horrifying.”
“Constant stress. “Nobody knew if he would walk again,” Rupert told local station KHON2.
“Took x-rays, didn’t find anything.” […] Give him painkillers. “They increased the dosage,” Rupert recalled of her visits from vet to vet. “He couldn’t walk. That’s when we realized it was really bad.’
North Carolina wildlife officials warned residents Monday that an invasive species of snail — which can be deadly to humans and devastating to river life — has been positively identified along the state’s Lumber River. The apple snail is known to carry rat lungworms, which can kill humans
Even casual contact can be risky, as wildlife authorities have warned that a toxin contained in the snail’s bright pink egg masses can cause skin and eye rashes if touched. The state is asking citizens to help track and kill apple snails using North Carolina’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Reporting Tool
The U.S. Geological Survey advises pet owners and anyone else outdoors to be on the lookout for apple snails in freshwater lakes, rivers, streams, ponds and ditches.
In addition to rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis), apple snails are known to carry harmful parasites such as leeches (Schistosoma spp.) and intestinal flukes (Echinostoma ilocanum)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that leech infection or Schistosomiasis can persist for years if not treated properly.
If the parasite is transmitted from snails to humans, it can cause severe abdominal pain, an enlarged liver, blood in the stool or urine, and difficulty urinating.
READ MORE: Murder hornet ‘relative’ invades US
The yellow-legged hornet, native to South Asia, has been discovered in Georgia, where authorities are urging residents to be on the lookout for invasive species that could “potentially threaten” honey production, native species, farms and human lives.
But beyond these threats to human health, North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) also warned that the apple snail poses a risk to local agriculture and native habitats.
“Their grazing habits can cause damage to crops such as rice, as well as to native wild plants used by many aquatic species,” the commission said on its aquatic nuisance species page.
“They were even observed feeding on amphibian eggs,” wildlife officials said
Wildlife experts in Hawaii have also warned that if left unchecked, the apple snail can decimate the local agricultural economy.
“In the Philippines, they have become the major pest of rice fields,” Hawaii’s Invasive Species Council reported, “in heavily infested areas, there have been 100 percent crop failures.”
Wildlife managers in North Carolina hope the state’s residents will help drive out the invasive species.
Apple snails typically have a rounded, yellowish to dark brown shell.
While they can reach the size of an apple, the creatures are usually closer to the size of a golf ball.
Authorities said that if residents see a suspicious apple snail or a mass of bright pink eggs, the first step is to photograph the location and document it in a report to the NCWRC’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Reporting Tool.
“Once the location has been documented, egg masses can be destroyed.” [by] “They are crushed and scraped into the water,” state wildlife officials said, “with any device such as a stick or boat paddle.”
The NCWRC experts also advise “ensuring that the eggs sink” while avoiding contact with bare skin to avoid possible rashes from the eggs’ toxins.
“Adult snails,” they said, “can be destroyed by crushing or freezing.”