It’s been a wet, warm spring thus far in the Kankakee Valley and the mosquito population is booming. Anyone who has been working outside is undoubtedly aware of that, and while mosquitoes are an annoyance and a health concern for humans, disease-carrying mosquitoes are also a major concern for dogs. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, but while every dog is vulnerable to the illness, protecting your animal against it is easy.
Mosquitoes become heartworm carriers when they feed on a wild or domestic dog that is suffering from the illness. By ingesting the larva, mosquitoes can transmit it to another animal through biting it. Mothers can also pass the disease to their puppies, since the larva live in the bloodstream; don’t panic, however, because the illness can be eliminated when the puppy is given preventative medication because the larvae must pass through a mosquito before becoming harmful.
Veterinarian Dr. Sandra Norman, companion animal director for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, urges dog owners to protect their companions through a monthly pill, given to the pet throughout the duration of its life. There is no vaccination for heartworms.
Norman said dog owners can also help ensure their pets health through a combination product that treats for both worms and fleas simultaneously. Dog owners should watch for signs of this disease if pets begin to cough, tire easily, or have exercise intolerance. That may mean a very playful dog begins to stop more often than normal while playing catch.
If the dog has already been infected, there is still hope – but it’s not a sure thing. Infected dogs must be healthy and young to undergo the treatment, and even then, the results might not be what you’d hoped for. Internal organs are quickly damaged by the illness, and without treatment, a dog will die from heart failure within two to three years after infection.