Heartworm Awareness

Spring has sprung and that means the mosquitos are not far behind… Mosquito Swarm

thus bringing us to the time of year when heartworm disease becomes a concern here in Canada and the northern States.  Heartworm disease is caused by a type of parasitic worm that lives in the heart and surrounding vessels of domestic dogs and rarely cats.  Infection with this parasite can lead to coughing, weight loss, heart failure, and death.  Certainly something to be avoided!

The disease is passed from an infected dog to another through mosquitos.  The mosquito will pick up “baby” worms when it bites an infected dog and transfer them to another dog.  The worms take up to one year to mature.  An infected dog may have 50 or more worms.  Treatment is both lengthy, often taking several months, and costly.

Heartworm is common in many areas of North America including the interior B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, parts of the Maritimes and most of the United States.  It is rare in Saskatchewan, Alberta and areas north of us.

Fortunately, heartworm is a preventable disease.  We are recommending that anyone who is traveling outside of Saskatchewan or Alberta during mosquito season, have preventative medicine for their pets.  This may be a topical product (Revolution) placed on the back of the pet’s neck or pills (Heartguard) given orally.  Depending on the type of medication prescribed and the travel history of the pet, a heartworm test may be advised.  This is because if your pet is already infected with heartworm, giving a preventative medication may make them very ill.  In addition, if a pet has treatment early, it results in the best outcome.  Heartworm testing involves taking a small blood sample and we generally have the results within a few days.  For pets who frequently travel to heartworm areas, annual heartworm testing is advised.  This is to ensure the preventative medication is working and to be able to treat a potential infection before it is too late.

If you have any questions regarding heartworm and your pet, please contact your veterinarian.Heartworm life cycle

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