By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Along with the wet weather and the warmer temperature we have had so far this summer comes the increase in the mosquito population. We are aware of the threats to human health through West Nile virus and most recently in southern states from Zika virus. There is also a risk to our pets as many species of mosquitoes in Wisconsin can be vectors for heartworm disease.
In the 1970s with the debut of the motor home, many dogs began traveling south for the winter where heartworm was already prevalent. Many of these dogs returned carrying this parasitic disease transmitted to them by mosquitoes that had fed on infected dogs. Early maps of heartworm disease in the U.S. depicted the Gulf Coast states and upper Midwest as the highest incidence areas.
K-9 heartworm arrived to the Marshfield area in the late ‘70s and persists to this day. Back then only a small percentage of dogs were on preventative medications. At that time little was known of the aberrant infection of cats because the main symptom was sudden death and often was attributed to something other than heartworm disease.
An infected cat or dog could unknowingly spread the disease throughout the neighborhood through the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes eat about every 10 days and with each meal can transmit the microfilaria baby heartworms. Heartworm is now even more widespread with foxes and coyotes becoming possible natural reservoirs for the disease.
Fortunately, veterinarians and their staff have been very successful in educating clients of the risk and offering prevention options. Medications purchased from your veterinarian, given appropriately, and absorbed by the pet approach 100 percent protection.
Ask your veterinarian about preventive options. Though treatable, the cost and challenges of treating heartworm disease make the preventatives worth investing in. There is even a medication for our feline friends. Though at much less risk for infection, the parasite can be a death sentence for them as well.
With a regular monthly preventative, we can help prevent the spreading of heartworm disease and keep our pets happy and healthy.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.