As mosquito populations grow, pet owners face greater threats of heartworms infecting their dogs or cats. Caused by a parasite that spread through mosquito bites, heartworm disease can cause lung problems, heart failure and death if left untreated.
Heartworms enter an animal’s bloodstream as larvae and grow to maturity in the heart, lung and blood vessels. It takes approximately six to seven months for the larvae to mature in dogs and about eight months in cats, and those mature parasites can live for several years. Although the disease is not contagious, mature parasites do release new larvae to extend the cycle, which can result in several hundred worms infecting a single animal.
Year-round prevention is the best course of action, and several options are available. Veterinarians can administer an injection every six months, the pet can ingest a monthly tablet, or the owner can apply topical medication on the pet. Since this is an internal disease, an annual blood test can detect the presence of the parasite should further treatment be required.
For more information on preventing heartworm disease in your pet, please consult with your veterinarian, or call the St. Charles County Pet Adoption Center at (636) 949-PETS.
As mosquito bites are the way heartworm is spread, the disease is most common in hot, humid areas — like those in our community during the summer — where the insects thrive. In addition to preventative medications, homeowners can take steps to minimize mosquito populations. Remove or drain sites that hold water for longer than a few days, aerate ponds and fountains, and alert the St. Charles County Division of Environmental Health and Protection to address problem areas.