Summer is the season for heartworm disease
Summer is here and, along with picnics, parades and pool parties, the warmer months mean more irritating insects such as flies, fleas and mosquitoes. In addition to being annoying, mosquitoes also transmit many infectious agents, including Dirofilaria immitis, the parasite more commonly known as heartworm.
While heartworm disease is most common in areas with high mosquito populations and warm, humid weather, cases now have been reported in all 50 states. This change in heartworm disease distribution may to be related both to climate change as well as the movement of more people and pets around the country. Veterinarians are finding more heartworm-infected dogs in areas of the United States previously not affected by this disease.
Because of this change in heartworm infection rates, the American Heartworm Society recommends all dogs get tested once a year regardless of where they live. The AHS also suggests dogs receive monthly heartworm preventive. These newer recommendations are reflected in changes to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study yearly questionnaire, which now asks participants more detailed questions about their heartworm preventives.
According to baseline data from the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, 88 percent of participants were on preventive medication at the time of enrollment. We expect this number to fluctuate over time as dogs move to different areas of the country. Young dogs that might not have been on a preventive medication at enrollment might be placed on one later. According to the American Pet Products Association survey from 2012, nationwide 52 percent of dogs receive heartworm preventive medication.
Heartworm disease can be fatal if untreated, so prevention and early detection are crucial to helping our dogs live long, healthy lives. Now that summer is here, take care to give your dog their preventive medication as directed. Our best friends deserve nothing less!