Jul 03 2018

The Truth about Heartworm disease. It’s alive and well in Central Texas and expanding through out the US.

Just Updated for 2018 from CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council) on Heartworm and Lyme Disease June 2018

CAPC has released its annual parasite forecast, and the outlook for 2018 is not optimistic. Heartworm disease will continue to “aggressively spread” across the US, says CAPC, and Lyme disease prevalence will increase in areas east of the Rockies. Heartworm prevalence has increased 20% over the past 5 years, according to CAPC, and the upward trend is expected to continue. Hot, wet conditions and shifting weather patterns over the past few years have created the ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. In addition, many heartworm positive dogs were relocated across the country following last years hurricane season, potentially adding to the spread of the disease. CAPC predicts the following geographic spread of heartworm disease this year:

  • Heartworm infections are expected to be above average nationwide.
  • Prevalence in the lower Mississippi River region will be much higher than normal.
  • Northern states, from Washington to Vermont, may experience a rise in heartworm infections.

Although Lyme disease occurs more commonly in areas with dense tick populations-New England, the East Coast, and the upper Midwest and West coast states-CAPC predicts that non-endemic areas will start to see a rise in Lyme disease cases, including  North Dakota, south Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, southern Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia, and the Appalachian region in Virginia. A less active year is predicted for areas from Washington. DC, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and eastward, as well as the Boston/Cape Cod, Massachusetts region.

 

CAPC also notes 2 other parasitic diseases that may cause trouble. Anaplasmosis prevalence is forecasted to be average for much of the US, except for Minnesota, which is expected to have an active year. The Wisconsin/Minnesota border area and the Boston/Cape Cod region should see less activity than normal. Ehrlichiosis prevalence is expected to be higher than normal in the southern Virginia and northern North Carolina regions with normal prevalence elsewhere

 

 

Our pets are part of our family and we would never intentionally expose them to an infection that could prove fatal. Unfortunately, many pet(s) are not given heartworm prevention every 30 days exposing them to this reality.


What is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease caused by worms that live in and around the heart. Heartworms will infect dogs, cats and ferrets. Heartworms have been found in other mammals such as wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and in rare instances, humans. The wild species that live in close proximity to urban areas such as foxes and coyotes are considered high risk carriers.

How is Heartworm Disease transmitted?
Mosquitoes! But first we need an infected host. This is usually a family dog that has female heartworms in the heart. Heartworms have babies called microfilaria, which circulate through the blood stream. A mosquito takes a blood meal from an infected animal ingesting the microfilaria. These then develop over 10-14 days into the “infected stage”. The mosquito then transfers the “infected stage” to a new host (dog, cat, susceptible wild life) during the process of taking a blood meal. These infected larvae migrate to the heart where they become adults in about 4 months.

What are the signs?
Dogs in the early stages of the disease show little to no symptoms. If a dog is undiagnosed or untreated, symptoms such as, a mild persistent cough, decrease in activity level, fatigue after mild activity, loss of appetite, and weight loss will develop. Signs in cats are similar to those in the dog, but unfortunately, the first sign in some cases is sudden collapse or death.

If your pet is positive for Heartworm Disease.
For dogs the treatment is a very intensive treatment that takes over 4 months. Treatment includes antibiotics, x-rays, blood test, steroids, pain meds, injections of a medication to kill the adult heartworms, hospitalization and strict confinement. For cats there is no known treatment. Surgical heartworm removal has been successful but mortality rate is high.

How to protect?
Monthly prevention YEAR ROUND for both dogs and cats is a must in the Central Texas area. In 2017 there were almost 30,000 heartworm cases in Texas alone. Williamson County was close to 400 reported cases. Mosquitoes are active all year in Texas. Indoor pets are not immune, 1 out of 4 cats diagnosed with heartworm disease are strictly indoors.
Heartworm prevention medication must prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. There is no FDA approved natural heartworm preventative available.
Do not skip prevention because you don’t see mosquitoes. Pets can become infected if dosages are missed. It only takes 1 bite. Test annually, adult heartworms take 4 months to mature, so missing a dose(s) can cause a false negative test leaving you unaware if not tested yearly.
Cedar Park has perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes and we have plenty of wildlife acting as natural hosts for heartworms. Our hospital has had 3 heartworm cases since the beginning of the 2018. Don’t let one of your beloved pets be another.

 

 

Reference:
American Heartworm Society- www.heartwormsociety.org
Companion Animal Parasite Council www.capcvet.org

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