Warm weather is fast approaching Central Oregon. While the sunshine and warmer weather brings fun summertime adventures, it also brings pesky insects like the mosquito. Let’s behonest, no one likes mosquitoes. They are irritating and one bite can be itchy and unpleasant. Did you know that besides being a nuisance, mosquito bites can be harmful to our dogs? Mosquitoes can be hosts to a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis, otherwise known as heartworms.
Heartworms are spread from dog to dog by a mosquito during a blood meal (bite). Microfilaria (early stages of heartworm) pass from the mosquito into a dog’s blood stream. Within two weeks, the microfilaria develops into larvae; the parasite will reach full maturity in approximately seven months. At this point, heartworms will begin reproducing and this increases the worm burden inside a dog’s lungs, heart and large blood vessels.
Early signs of heartworm infestation are often mild. Some dogs are asymptomatic or may develop a minor cough. Notable symptoms of heartworm infection often will not manifest until six months post infection or more. Symptoms that develop may include: severe coughing, lethargy, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Inflammation in the pulmonary arteries, heart failure and cardiovascular collapse (regularly coupled with labored breathing, lethargy, and pale gums) will often occur as the disease progresses, and if left untreated, this parasite can be fatal.
As scary as heartworms can be, there is good news. This parasite is almost 100% preventable with a monthly preventative (often disguised as a treat given at home every thirty days). Dogs should be tested annually to determine their heartworm status and before beginning any heartworm preventative. Testing is done via a small blood test in the clinic.
Heartworms have been detected in all 50 states. Cases are regularly reported in Oregon (including Deschutes County). A great resource for monitoring heartworm prevalence by county is provided by Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) at https://capcvet.org/maps/#2020/all/feline-heartworm-ab/cat/united-states/.
At East Bend Animal Hospital, we are focusing on Parasite Prevention for the months of May and June. We are offering heartworm tests for $25 (our heartworm tests check for heartworm disease as well as tick transmitted pathogens such as ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis). We are also offering 10% off preventatives that can help keep your dog heartworm free. Call us today if you have any questions about heartworms or monthly preventatives.