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Spring is here and with that slowly comes rain (sometimes snow), greener grass, and the dreaded mosquitoes.  Rather than just the usual annoyance, mosquitoes also bring disease not only for people but also our furry companions.  Heartworm Disease is a very serious disease for our pets and all it takes is one bite!

Heartworm disease is cause by the parasitic worm called Dirofilaria Immitis.  It is more common in our southeastern states, although with the increase in travel and adopted pets moving across America it can occur anywhere – even in Wyoming!  Heartworm disease is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito with microfilariae (baby heartworms).  The microfilariae then develop into an infective stage after several weeks within the mosquito.  All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito to then transmit the larvae into the blood stream of a dog.  The larvae then find their way to the heart where they mature into adult heartworms (which are about the size of angel hair pasta!).  The adult females then start producing microfilariae (the baby heartworms) after 6 months from when the dog was first bit.  A mosquito bites this infected dog and then the cycle can begin again onto the next unlucky dog.

Adult heartworms cause severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and death.  It mainly affects dogs but can also affect cats.  Signs of heartworm disease can vary greatly from no symptoms to lethargy, cough, difficulty breathing, and death.  Since signs can vary drastically getting your pets tested for heartworm disease is important!

Treatment of heartworm disease is very expensive and carries risk.  Therefor the best treatment is prevention (it is also cheaper and safer in the long run).  As Benjamin Franklin stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Luckily heartworm disease is very easy to prevent.  Here at Altitude Veterinary Hospital, we recommend monthly deworming for all dogs with Interceptor Plus which covers the major intestinal parasites as well as heartworm!  In one single chewable treat a month you can prevent your dog from catching a deadly disease.  We also test for heartworm disease every year in our comprehensive “Health Fair” bloodwork that we recommend for all dogs (and cats) over the age of two.

Call us today to get scheduled for a wellness exam, Health Fair bloodwork, and to get your heartworm prevention today! We want to keep your pets and happy and healthy for as long as possible.