Climate Change and Heartworm?

By Kim Everson, DVM

In response to Jeanne’s April 30 comment:
The incidence of heartworm and other diseases transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes and ticks is increasing the northern U.S. for a variety of reasons. Climate change producing longer, warmer seasons has been proposed to explain this trend. A contributing factor is the relocation of dogs from the southern U.S. following disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. These homeless dogs have brought a variety of infections into areas where such diseases are less common due to increased veterinary care and successful prevention programs.

Heartworm is an easily preventable disease in dogs and cats (yes, cats! more on this later). There are many safe and affordable prevenatives available: many are monthly chewable treats, some also prevent fleas and ticks, another is a long-lasting injection under the skin. In Wisconsin, pets should be given a heartworm preventative every month of the year. Given every month, most heartworm preventatives also help control intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms. Plus, when owners give the preventative the entire year there are fewer missed or delayed doses, periods where the pet is at risk of being bitten by a heartworm-positive mosquito. At a minimum, heartworm prevention should be started in March and continued until November in Wisconsin (although there are definitely years where the season is longer or shorter).

Please contact your veterinarian to discuss which heartworm preventative is right for your pet. For more information about heartworm disease and prevention in dogs and cats please visit the American Heartworm Society.

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