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april national heartworm awareness

Posted By SLCo Animal Services
April 04, 2019

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2019_prevent_heartworm

Spring is here and with spring we see buds popping out, flowers beginning to blossom and our pets getting to spend more time enjoying being outside. April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, and Salt Lake County Animal Services wants pet owners to be ready to protect their pets year round!

Spring brings with in an invasion of mosquito larvae which grow to adults that spread heartworm disease from dog to dog and cat to cat. A grown adult mosquito can drink 1 1/2 times their body weight. Salt Lake City is # 1 among the top 10 cities in the country for a percentage increase in the number of dogs testing positive for the disease.

Heartworm infection has been detected in all 50 states. In January 2019 in the Salt Lake Area, 666 dogs were tested, of those only one dog tested positive for heartworm. In February, 675 dogs were tested, 11 tested positive. These may not be high numbers but there is an increasing prevalence that is very concerning.

The disease is caused by a foot-long worm that lives in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of the affected animal. When a mosquito bites an infected animal and then bites an uninfected animal, the larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animals’ skin and enter through the wound. Once inside the host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5-7 years. This can cause lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs. If left untreated several hundred adults will infiltrate the heart and lungs and eventually will result in death.

In the early stages of the disease, animals show few or no symptoms. That’s why prevention is the best approach. Initial signs of heartworm disease in dogs may include: Mild persistent cough, inactivity, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss

Initial signs of heartworm disease in cats may include: Coughing or asthma like symptoms, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, and/or weight loss.

It only takes one heartworm infected animal to substantially increase the number of infected mosquitoes that can transmit heartworm parasites.

With changing climates that are extending the mosquitoes breeding season heartworm disease in dogs and cats will only continue to rise. There are currently 70 varieties of mosquitoes that spread heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease is almost 100% preventable. You will need to have your dog or cat tested for heartworm disease before administering a preventative. It is a simple test that is administered by your veterinarian. The test requires a small blood sample and works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins.

You need to test annually even if your animal is on a preventative. The medicines are highly effective, but it is necessary to test to confirm they are working. Heartworm disease is a dangerous and progressive disease.

For more information on the top 10 cities that have experienced an increase in heartworm disease follow this link: http://www.petsandparasites.org/about-capc/top-ten-cities-reports/

If you are interested in having a heartworm test done for your animal, please contact your veterinarian.

To find out more information on Heartworm disease : https://www.heartwormsociety.org/