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Holden boost for lungworm campaign
Actress and TV presenter Amanda Holden has lent her support to a campaign to highlight the dangers of a parasite which can prove fatal to dogs.
The Britain's Got Talent judge dropped into the second day of the Crufts dog show for a photocall to raise awareness of the dangers of lungworm to pets.
Holden, a long-standing supporter of London's Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, was given a tour of an interactive garden set up at Crufts to educate visitors about the dangers of lungworm and other parasites.
The star also posed for pictures alongside police dogs at the show at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.
Cases of lungworm, often caused by dogs eating snails or slugs, are said by animal health experts to be spreading across the UK at an "alarming" rate - with about a fifth of veterinary practices having treated the condition.
Around 85% of UK dogs are thought to remain unprotected against the parasite, which is believed to be on the rise due to increased pet movement in recent years, and the urbanisation of infected foxes.
The interactive garden has been set up by Bayer Animal Health, which markets a treatment for lungworm and is attempting to educate dog owners of the parasite's dangers on social media sites, including Facebook.
Caroline Braidwood, group product manager at Bayer Animal Health said: "Last year we received lots of feedback from owners who had tragically lost their pets to lungworm, and whilst we were pleased that we were helping to raise awareness, we became conscious that we needed to do more to prevent dogs from dying unnecessarily.
"Our 2014 campaign focus has come as a direct result of talking to these owners."
Mark Bossley, chief vet at the UK's leading animal charity, Blue Cross, said: "We regularly advise dog owners of the dangers of lungworm because, sadly, we see so many cases every year.
"We urge dog owners to talk to their vet about preventative treatments and be vigilant with their dogs when in the garden or on walks."
As well as a dedicated Facebook page, Bayer Animal Health's awareness campaign includes a day of broadcasts from Crufts on an ad hoc radio station entitled Hound Waves.
After visiting Hound Waves' studio, Holden said: "Lungworm is a potentially fatal parasite that can kill dogs. It's really important that owners are aware of the risk and to talk to their vet about how they can prevent it.
"I want to encourage all dog owners in the UK to sign up to the Act on Lungworm pledge on our Facebook page to help spread the word."