Mosquito-borne diseases that can be fatal to your pet are on the rise in our area
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) – It’s a mosquito-borne disease that can kill your pets and we’re seeing more cases of it in the area. Local vets want to remind you that it is easy to prevent.
Heartworm is not new, but some local veterinarians and rescue groups, like Planned Pethood, have seen an increase in cases in our area over the past few years.
Brooke West has been a veterinarian for over 15 years. She owns the Perrysburg Animal Hospital and the West Toledo Animal Hospital. “When I first started practicing, we would see maybe one case per summer or fall. Now we see one a week or more, so it’s definitely on the rise.
Heartworm causes things like heart failure and lung disease. “A mosquito will bite a dog with the heartworm and then bite another dog. The infective larvae get inserted into the dog’s bloodstream. That’s how it spread,” West said.
Colleen Kane and her husband adopt dogs for Planned Pethood. Through their work with the rescue group, they have cured a number of heartworm-carrying dogs. “The worms look like spaghetti and entwine in the heart. It is a terrible disease that can be fatal if not caught. The frustrating thing is that it’s something pets don’t have to go through,” Kane said.
Kane says it’s much cheaper to prevent with drugs than to treat. “The treatment is very expensive and while all of our veterinary partners are very good to us, it’s still a top-of-the-line treatment that can’t be fixed right away,” Kane said.
West says the treatment is a difficult process. “It’s a long and tedious process. There are exercise restrictions, painful injections, and lots of medications to take. This all takes months to complete,” West said.
She also says that heartworm medicine is something you should give all year round. It’s the same message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“They recommend year-round control and prevention, because they saw a live mosquito in January, so you need to stick to those guidelines,” Kane said. “You can also find mosquitoes all over the place, so even if your dog isn’t outside much, he needs some medicine. Mosquitoes have no problem getting inside.
If you can’t afford medicine, Kane says, ask for help. “Reach. Ask your vet, local rescue center or shelter. That’s what we’re all here for. We work as a team. Everyone wants you to keep your pet home and away. of a safe haven,” Kane said.
FDA experts say signs of heartworm include a persistent cough, fatigue after light activity, difficulty breathing, and a sickly appearance. It is not contagious and only spreads when a dog is bitten by a mosquito. A dog can have anywhere from 1 to over 200 worms, although the average number is 15. The lifespan of a heartworm inside a dog is 5 to 7 years.
As mentioned, cats can also get heartworms. However, the FDA says cats aren’t as susceptible to infection as dogs because worms don’t grow as well in a cat’s body. Prevention is again key as there are several products approved to prevent heartworms in cats. Ferrets can also catch heartworms.
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