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By Dr. Rochelle Campbell

Our beautiful climate here in Florida brings a lot of tourists to our state.  Unfortunately, it is a perfect environment for lots of parasites and insects too...including mosquitoes.    Our state harbors so many many mosquitoes some have even called it our "state bird".   With the abundance of mosquitoes, the risk of heartworm disease for dogs increases tremendously.

The heartworm cycle begins when a mosquito feeds off a dog that is affected with heartworms. Several phases of the heartworm life cycle occur inside the mosquito.   As the mosquito continues to feed on anything and everything, eventually it will find a dog that is not on heartworm prevention.   It is at this time the unprotected dog will be infected with heartworms.  

Heartworm larvae (ie. baby heartworms) continue to develop in the dog until they reach the adult stage.    At this time, they make their way into the pulmonary artery (the main vessel that sends blood from the heart to the lungs).   Since heartworms can live for several years, a lot of inflammation and damage can occur at this site.   Eventually most dogs will die from heartworm infestation, due to all of the physical complications they cause.  

Giving your dog a monthly preventative will protect them from heartworm disease.   Several versions of prevention are available and most are combined with a general dewormer and flea prevention.   There is even an injectable heartworm preventative that lasts for six months.   Ask your veterinarian about which option is the right one for your pet.   It is important to make sure you have your dog tested for heartworms (a quick and simple blood test) before starting any preventative.
Prevention is safer and cheaper for your dog.  Treatment for heartworm disease is much more expensive and although not common, there can be significant side effects from it.  Taking simple steps will help ensure your pet will remain heartworm free.  .

Have a safe and happy summer!!