Heartworm hurricane: An increasing menace
The vet’s office
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Why another article on heartworm disease? You just heard the entire story a few months ago. The answer is that the number of positive cases is on the increase. Take note if your pet is not on a preventative.
In the recent past when pet owners would ask about the risk of heartworm, my reply would be that it was low unless a dog in your neighborhood was positive. This was usually the neighbor whose pet traveled to the high-risk Southern states with its owner. The infected dog would then be the blood source for the mosquito transmission to all of his neighbors six months later upon return to Wisconsin.
Today, Southern dogs are routinely being rehomed to the Northern states. Some of these dogs have no history of health care and possibly have never had homes. With the higher prevalence of heartworm in the South, some of these dogs test negative prior to being sent north but may actually be in the early stages of a heartworm infection.
With the recent hurricanes to hit Texas and Florida, a flood of rescued dogs have headed our way. After thousands of dogs were rehomed due to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the increase in heartworm positives was dramatic nationwide. This scenario is already repeating itself with the aftermath of the recent hurricanes, and the risk of heartworm will predictably continue to rise.
Ask your veterinarian to review your pet’s heartworm prevention program. This is usually a monthly medication, but some practices offer a six-month injection. A negative heartworm blood test is usually required to begin prevention in adult dogs and annually for refills of the monthly medications. It is important with the seasonal fluctuations to be on a preventative year-round. Professional products purchased through your veterinarian — either directly from them or through their professional online store — often carry a manufacturer’s guarantee of effectiveness, whereas farm stores or online suppliers typically do not carry the manufacturer guarantees. Be aware, there are lookalike or black-market products out there that may be less effective in preventing this severe and sometimes deadly disease. In cats, as aberrant hosts, heartworm’s only symptom may be sudden death.
Hopefully your dogs and cats are on preventatives and will never have to go through the risk of exposure to heartworm disease and the costly treatment.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.