Winter has officially given way to Spring. Spring brings warm weather, and warm weather brings mosquitos. Mosquitos are responsible for the spread of heartworms in pets, primarily dogs. As the warmer weather brings us closer to Summer, it is time to reevaluate your pet’s heartworm preventative program, if you have not already done so.
According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworm disease is on the rise nationwide, including the southeast. Tennessee ranks in the top five states for heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis. It is transmitted when a new dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying the parasite. Once the parasite enters the new dog, it takes approximately six months to mature into adult worms in the heart. Adult heartworms can be up to a foot in length.
Clinical symptoms include appetite loss, exercise intolerance, weight loss, cough, difficult breathing and swollen abdomen. Symptoms are not usually exhibited until the heartworm disease is fairly advanced. Although medications are available to treat the disease, irreversible heart damage can occur. Testing and prevention is the best approach to heartworm disease. Heartworm prevention is safe and easy, and much less costly than treatment for it.