What Does Spring Bring? Mosquitoes!

Tularemia, viral encephalitis, malaria, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever, heartworm disease, African swine fever to name a few. All of these diseases have something in common. Hint… BZZ, BZZ, BZZ, swat, swat, swat. Yes, it’s that pesky and annoying MOSQUITO! Ugh!

March is here, the month that spring arrives, and that means mosquito season. While we all love springtime, I am sure we are not as passionate about these blood-sucking pests, except maybe in how much we despise them. March is also Heartworm Disease Awareness Month. However, heartworm disease is something that should be prevented each and every month year round, not just started in the spring. The veterinarian at the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has some specific guidelines on prevention of heartworm disease in both dogs and cats. (Yes, cats are susceptible as well.)

For more useful information about heartworm disease visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council website or The American Heartworm Society.

The mosquito, when it “grabs” a blood meal from your dog or cat, will pass an immature form of heartworm into their bloodstream. This parasite is called Dirofilaria immitus. This immature form will then migrate to your pet’s lungs, pulmonary arteries and heart while continuing to develop.  This then compromises both the lungs and heart, and in some cases, leads to failure of these organs resulting in death.

Your pet should be tested for heartworm disease at least on an annual basis. This is done by a simple blood test. Tests are very reliable and easy to do in the dog. Testing in the cat, while still done via a blood sample, can present some other challenges since cats react to exposure of heartworms slightly differently than dogs. Your vet can discuss the specifics of testing. Assuming your pet is negative for heartworms, a prevention program is started or continued.

Although we can’t rid our lives of the inevitable mosquito, the good news is we can effectively, easily and inexpensively prevent our dogs and cats from getting heartworm disease. There are many preventative medications available in oral forms, topical forms and even an injectable prevention for dogs that lasts up to six months. Many of these monthly medications are also affective against other parasites as well, including intestinal parasites. Wow, how easy is that! Your veterinarian can discuss options with you and together you can decide what may be best for your pet.

You might ask about treatment of heartworm disease. Yes, it can be treated in the dog but currently there are no effective treatments for the cat, so prevention is imperative in cats.  All too often cats are overlooked and in fact probably less than 10% of cats in the US are on heartworm prevention. Here is a short video on heartworm disease in cats you may find interesting. Again, protect those cats!

Don’t let the last word, or last “buzz” in this case, be from the mosquito. Make sure to place your canine and feline friends on heartworm prevention. It is always so sad to diagnose this disease in a pet when it is so easily preventable. Keep your heart from breaking, and your pets’ as well, by keeping them on heartworm prevention year round.

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