Spring is finally here! While the warm weather is welcomed by most, it is closely followed by the arrival of unwanted mosquitoes and ticks. These are the vectors responsible for Heartworm disease and Lyme disease respectively.
Heartworm disease is a life-threatening condition caused by a worm that lives in the heart and adjacent blood vessels. The parasite is transmitted when a mosquito ingests the ‘baby worms’ (Microfilariae) while feeding from an animal infected with the disease. After 2 – 3 weeks the microfilariae develop into infective larvae. When the mosquito takes another blood meal the infective larvae escape from its mouth parts into its victim. The larvae then further develop within the dog’s tissues and migrate to the heart where adult worms grow, and the life cycle begins all over again.
Signs of Heartworm disease can include lethargy, chronic cough and weight loss. Signs are not often apparent until 6 – 7 months after your dog has been infected. Although treatment is possible once infection has been diagnosed, it’s less traumatic for your pet if the disease is prevented. Heartworm disease can be prevented safely and affordably. A small blood sample is taken from your pet to determine if there has been any past exposure to an infected mosquito. After a negative test result, your dog will be put on a monthly heartworm prevention to be administered regularly through the duration of mosquito season (normally June-November).
Ticks are not simply undesirable pests. They are responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis just to name a few. Lyme disease, the most common tick borne disease in our immediate area, is spread by the Deer tick (lxodes Scapularis). The larval stages of the deer tick become infected while feeding on white-footed mice and ground feeding birds. The infected tick then transmits the Lyme disease causing bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) to people, dogs and other animals when it attaches itself to take a blood meal.
Signs of Lyme disease infection can include lameness, swollen or painful joints, lethargy, depression, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea and a general reluctance to exercise. A more serious form of the disease can lead to kidney failure. Like Heartworm disease, we can test for exposure to the Lyme disease causing bacteria with a simple blood test. Lyme disease can also be prevented with an inexpensive vaccination and with the administration of a monthly tick prevention designed specifically for dogs.
With today’s medical advances we are able to affordably test for and prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks. Because no preventive medication is 100% effective, we recommend that all dogs be tested yearly. Please contact us today to discuss what prevention is most suitable for your dog.