If you are a dog owner, you have probably heard about heartworms and the importance of protecting dogs against them. Heartworms are more concerning in certain climates and so they may be a bigger concern depending on where you live. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos so, while a dog can get heartworm disease in any climate, they are at an increased risk if they live in humid locations where mosquitos are more prevalent. Huffington Post explains what heartworm disease is and where it tends to be the biggest concern, “While it’s most common on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, heartworm has been reported in all 50 states. It’s a parasite that spends part of its life cycle in a mosquito. One bite from an infected mosquito can transmit that parasite to your dog, where it develops further. Eventually, it grows into worms that can be up to a foot long, and which will infest your dog’s organs, particularly the heart and lungs… he mosquito is the only method of transmission, which is why mosquito abatement programs are so important, and why you should never have standing,stagnant water around your property.From the time of infection, it can be up to six months before your dog shows symptoms.”
Your veterinarian has likely already told you that it is a good idea to put your dog on a medication to prevent heartworms. It is typically a simple chew that is given to your dog once per month and helps protect them from heartworms. While you may think that if you live in a state with very little mosquito population that your dog is not at risk but heartworm disease has occurred in all 50 states. Symptoms can be hard to spot but include tiredness, cough, difficulty breathing, anemia, fainting and more. Heartworm disease is classified in three groups: Class 1 (asymptomatic), Class 2 (mild symptoms), Class 3 (severe symptoms). For Classes 1 and 2 a dog may be hospitalized and given a medication to kill the heartworms but for more severe cases like Class 3, prolonged hospitalization and/or a surgical procedure to remove the heartworms may be necessary. It is for this reason that preventive measures (such as medication and mosquito abatement) are critical for protecting your dog against heartworm disease. Speak to your veterinarian about what medication and preventive measures are best for your dog and where you live.