Forget cats, snails are a dog’s worst enemy

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

dog snails
Dogs often eat snails when they find them in the backyard or on a doggie toy.

Did you ever stop to watch a snail move? It seems to take them several minutes to cover the same distance I could in a single stride! Ha-ha, slowpokes. They move so slow, the fact that some snails carry a deadly lungworm parasite called Angiostrongylus vasorum doesn’t seem to matter. It’s not like they could chase us down and make us sick! Well, according to researchers from the University of Exeter, it doesn’t matter how sluggishly they travel – no pun intended – because snails are on the move and spreading the disease all across Europe!

“They are so slow that people don’t even think about them moving, but it turns out they do, and they can go a long way in a night,” said Dr. Dave Hodgson, who led this study. In order to find out exactly how far the little guys can hustle, researchers attached multicolored LED lights to 450 snails and watched them move across a typical lawn at night. They discovered that the creatures could move up to 82 feet a day, which is pretty impressive, considering how slow they seem to meander along. How did they cover such a “vast” distance anyways? The thing is, snails use almost half of their energy making slime. This gooey substance allows them to slip and slide around a tiny bit faster than they could without it. In order to save some energy, the creepy crawlers use slime trails from other snails.

Hmm, 82 feet is about the average length of a garden. If my calculations are correct, the slimeballs could get from one house to another in about a night! I know we don’t have to worry about catching the Angiostrongylus vasorum parasite when we’re awake, since we can easily outrun the slowpokes. However, it’s a whole different story if we’re totally motionless in bed just asking them to make us sick! Should we all find a way to snail-proof our homes?

Actually, there’s no need to fear for our personal safety, since humans can’t catch the parasite from the creatures. It is, however, quite easy for dogs to catch it, especially because canines love to gobble up the shell-armored fiends. “It is a national problem and we all have to pay attention to the interactions between dogs and snails,” said Hodgson. What can Europeans do to protect their furry family members, besides just stepping on the slimy creatures when they cross the porch? Instead of going around creating what Hodgson calls a “snail apocalypse,” they should just take snails out of the garden. Simple as that.

I always thought that cats were a dog’s sworn enemy, but now it looks like snails were just a little late to the party.

Featured image courtesy of Craig ONeal on Flickr. Dog image courtesy of Whitney H. on Flickr. Video courtesy of Unuplusunu on Wikipedia.