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Posted on 04-10-2014

Heartworm Disease

As spring approaches and warm weather returns (hopefully soon), the pesky parasites that inhabit our state will start to emerge.  One of which, mosquito transmitted Heartworms, is on the rise in New Hampshire.  Heartworm disease is very common in Southern parts of the country, due to year round warm climate and lack of preventative care. Up until recently, New Englanders have been fortunate that few dogs have become sick with the disease, however more and more local dogs are being diagnosed each year.  Rescue dogs are travelling to the area, bringing with them heartworms.  Mosquitoes are travelling further North also. In the past year we have diagnosed 6 dogs with heartworm disease, which is more than we diagnosed in the previous 6 years combined.  To combat the spread of disease and keep our pets healthy, we must protect all dogs with heartworm prevention.

If you currently give your pet heartworm prevention: be consistent and continue all year long – even during the winter.  A few warm days and the mosquitoes will be active again.  Also, heartworm preventatives provide monthly deworming against intestinal parasites which can spread to people.  We recommend Sentinel and Heartgard as our top choices.  In addition to heartworms and intestinal worms, Sentinel also helps to control flea infestations. Both are chewable tablet preventatives given once a month.

Have trouble remembering? Set up a monthly reminder in your smart phone or digital calendar to remind you.  Also, http://remindmypet.com offers a free reminder service that can send text messages as well as a mobile app.

All dogs need protection, even those that only spend a short time outside.  No matter where you live, an

infected mosquito may bite and infect your dog.

For those interested in the life cycle of heartworms: An infected mosquito (one that has bitten and taken a blood meal from a dog with heartworms) bites your dog and transfers the microscopic heartworm larva (think baby heartworms) into his skin and bloodstream.  The larvae grow into adult worms within the bloodstream and then get stuck in the big vessels near the heart.  This damages the heart and lungs, causing coughing, tiredness, and even death.  The treatment for heartworms is expensive and requires painful injections that can have some serious side effects.  Diagnosing and treating for heartworms can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

It is easier and less expensive to prevent heartworms than to treat them. In fact, a lifetime supply of preventative is less expensive than treating a pet with heartworm disease once. We recommend testing for Heartworms each year with a simple blood test, then monthly prevention all year round.  Call the office to schedule your dog’s yearly exam or to order your supply of prevention (negative test result required within the past year).

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