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Summer parasite update 2021

02 June 2021
6 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 5
Figure 1. An increase in angiostrongylosis (lungworm) was seen in 2020, and there continues to be a lack of awareness about Angiostrongylus vasorum.


Following a tumultuous 2020 which could not have been predicted, it was expected that 2021 would have returned to ‘normal’ by now. However, 2021 is still far from normal and we have the added complications of Brexit legislation now live in the UK. Drawing from information published in the ESCCAP UK & Ireland Parasite Forecasts and the ESCCAP UK & Ireland quarterly enquiry data, this article takes a look at how 2021 is progressing to date and identifies some of the similarities and differences compared with 2020.

Events in 2020 were overtaken by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the veterinary industry was no exception. Focus was drawn away from exotic parasites and replaced with concerns about a resurgence in domestic parasite infections following a reduction in routine parasite control. In 2021 this trend still continues and we are seeing new themes such as environmental contamination come to light.

This time last year, the key themes were:

So far in 2021 the key themes are:

The hot topics in 2020 came as a surprise to everyone. Focus was expected to be on exotic parasites as was the trend for all previous years, but instead things took a U-turn after oversees travel largely stopped because of the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, we saw a renewed interest in domestic parasites, especially Angiostrongylus vasorum, dog tapeworms (Echinococcus granulosus), Giardia spp. and Toxocara spp. (Figures 14).

This time last year, we were mid first lockdown. But before this, life was mostly continuing as normal for many of us. A wet and mild winter and spring resulted in an influx of giardiosis which continued all the way into summer until we had a significant warm dry spell to stem the infection rates. As we went into lockdown, most veterinary practices adapted and implemented systems to manage appointments with social distancing and the ongoing supply of medications throughout lockdown. Despite this, many pet owners were reluctant to visit their veterinary surgeon or register new puppies with a veterinary practice. With many people getting puppies for the first time during lockdown, this meant that no parasite prevention plan was set up for many puppies. This has had ramifications for all domestic parasites, but A. vasorum lungworm was of particular note when an increase in angiostrongylosis was seen as a result (Figure 1). A published study has shown a continuing lack of awareness by dog owners about A. vasorum and the risks it poses to their dogs, with only half of dog owners aware of lungworm and only 13% actually knowing what it is (Woodmansey, 2019).

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