If you’ve taken your dog to the vet recently then you’ve probably had the heartworm disease conversation. While heartworm disease is easily preventable, some animals still have the unfortunate occurrence of contracting this disease. Preventative medicine is very affordable and available for pet owners, yet we still see a high spike in heartworm cases each year. Below are some helpful facts that may help you and your pal avoid those pesky heartworms from here on out.
Transmission of Heartworms: Mosquitoes are the method of transmission – or vector – for heartworms. While you currently hear mosquito and think “zika,” many people are unaware of the local infestations of mosquitoes that they – and their dogs – are exposed to. Mosquitoes transmit a large number of diseases. Controlling the mosquito population is a crucial step in preventing diseases. It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit a heartworm to your dog. Many species of mosquitoes are capable of infecting dogs with heartworms. Although transmission risk is greater in the summer, Mosquitoes are not just a pest during the hot months of the year. They can live year round in garages, greenhouses or other warm environments and can increase in numbers quickly.
Mosquitoes breed and reproduce very efficiently. Eliminating places they reproduce – like standing water in flower pots, puddles and even dishes – is key to controlling their population. Window screens can also help, but make sure they fit windows well and don’t have any openings. Staying indoors during twilight, when mosquitos actively feed, can do a lot to prevent exposure for you and your dogs.
Test Annually: Even though your pet is on monthly prevention does not mean you should not still test annually for this easily preventable disease. It is easier to cure if you can catch this disease before the heartworms mature. An annual heartworm test is a great, inexpensive safety net everyone should take advantage of.
Indoor Sources: Although the risk of exposure to heartworms is greater in outdoor animals, indoor dogs and cats are not without risk because mosquitos are common indoors year-round.
Treatment: Heartworm infection is not easy to cure. The treatment, which involves injectable arsenic-like chemicals, takes weeks – even months – of exercise restriction. Infection is also treated with antibiotics and the use of preventives to control future infections. The cost of heartworm treatment is like paying for a lifetime of heartworm prevention.
Heartworms are a serious health problem for dogs and cats too. Prevention is an essential part of responsible pet ownership. See your veterinarian at least yearly and always focus on preventive care.