It’s that time a year again when everyone starts worrying about parasites, particularly heartworm. However, did you know you should still be thinking about prevention 12 months out of the year? Did you know that heartworm preventatives aren’t actually preventatives at all but actually dewormers? Did you know most products also provide coverage against other parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, etc.? Did you know cats can get heartworm disease, too!?!? What about ferrets!?
While the weather gets pretty cold and nasty here in Nebraska, we still recommend year around product administration. Guessing when mosquitos are out and transmitting is a dangerious game of roulette. If you give your pet preventative at the beginning of October and the rest of the month is particularly warm, you leave your pet open to infection if you don’t give a second dose in November. Remember heartworm prevention is actually a dewormer. It does not protect “forward” but kills what they were exposed to the past month. Also, many of you are traveling with your pets. Are you making sure you are keeping them protected? It may be freezing in Nebraska but southern states still have a thriving and busy mosquito population.
Generally, the prevalence of heartworm disease in Nebraska is low but yearly analysis of data shows that heartworm positive dogs are on the rise in the area. This may be due to climate change but also we are seeing an influx of rescue dogs from the South after the hurricanes last year. These positive dogs are a reservoir for the disease and pose a risk to your pet (dog and cat alike).
Heartworm disease is transmitted via the bite of the mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it is then able to transmit these to a new dog. A single dog can be bitten more than 80 times in a single evening! It only takes one bite from one infected to mosquito to pass the disease along. Even one heartworm positive dog in a neighborhood dramatically increases your pet’s risk. Most species of mosquitos can fly 1-3 miles from a breeding ground. Some of the bigger species can fly as far as 7 miles! Twenty five different species of mosquitoes in the United States can carry heartworm disease and each species is active at different times of the day and year.
Many have the ability to exist in microclimates. These consist of warmer areas often found in the city between buildings or protected from Mother Nature. So while it may be cold and blowing outside, mosquitos can be alive and well in these protected environments. They also still have to potential to pass on disease.
So how can you help protect your pet? Start with giving or applying a month preventative that kills the larva that is passed along by the mosquito. These products include Sentinel Spectrum and Revolution (among many others). Some topical flea/tick preventatives such as Vectra also help repel the bite of the mosquito. If they can’t bite they can’t transmit. In a recent study involving a resistant strain of heartworm, using a combination of heartworm prevention and topical repellent Vectra, eliminated the transmission of this resistant type strain.
Environmental control is important as well. Mosquitos can reproduce wherever there is as little as one inch of standing water. This includes water bowls, kiddy pools, and your neighbor’s ditch that never completely dries up. Make sure to empty, wash, and refill outdoor water bowels daily. Make sure to keep unused bird baths, kitty pools, or other items that can collect water dry and turned over so water does not collect. Resolve any landscaping issues that may result in retained areas of water.
Even pets that do not go outdoors can get heartworm disease! Mosquitos can easily fly through doors and windows and bite your pet. Remember it only takes one infected mosquito that carries heartworm to infect your pet. Make sure to keep screens on any open doors and windows to prevent intruders.
We may not have a lot of heartworm in Nebraska but unprotected pets are at risk. The disease is truly devastating and life threatening to those pets that contract it. Please be sure to contact us on how we can help protect your pet from a devastating disease.
American Heartworm Society https://www.heartwormsociety.org
Companion Animal Parasite Council http://www.petsandparasites.org
2016 Heartworm Prevalence Map