Wow...where has the time gone?
Seems like just yesterday we were talking about Hallowe'en and now it's nearly the end of July!
Well...having survived the coldest and snowiest winter in 116 years, I think we can all give ourselves a pat on the back!
Unfortunately, the warmer temperatures brought with them rain...and we all know that with all that rain have arrived oodles of mosquitoes! Do you know what comes with mosquitoes? That's right! HEARTWORM disease!
Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes! Here's what happens! Mosquitoes feed on an infected dog which has adult worms living in it's heart. These worms are busy producing baby worms (larvae) which are then taken in by the mosquito with a blood meal. The larvae develops a bit more in the mosquito and then is ready to be deposited into the next susceptible dog (or occasionally cat...more on this later") with the next blood meal. These larvae then go on to develop into adult worms...unless of course your pet is on heartworm preventative medication. What the preventative medications do is kill off these baby worms (larvae) before they are able to go on to develop into adult worms. Once adult worms are present, the treatment for the disease is completely different.
Dogs that develop adult heartworm infection typically show symptoms of heart disease....cough, exercise intolerance, loss of appetite and weight loss. Left untreated, it can be fatal
The most common heartworm preventative medications are given monthly, either as a tablet/chewable or as a topical (squeeze on the skin) treatment. These products typically also dewormer for intestinal worms which is an added bonus. In Manitoba, we typically medicate monthly from the end of May to the end of October. Because the preventatives kill of larvae that have already been deposited, we typically say they 'work backward' ...the tablet that you give at the end of July, for example, kills off any larvae deposited during the month of July. This is why it is especially important to remember to give the last tablets of the year AFTER all of the mosquitoes are done for the year.
Getting back to the cats...Cats can also be infected with heartworm but the incidence in cats tends to be much lower. We typically estimate that the incidence in tats is only about 1/10 that in dogs. Unfortunate thing for cats is that a single worm can be fatal and often the first symptom noted in cats is sudden death! Outdoor cats should be on a preventative as well. These product provide the added advantage of treating for tapeworms which are the worms that most commonly affect hunting cats. You know...those little icky rice-like ones that stick to the back end of affected cats!
Well...hope this little heartworm lesson has been useful. If you have any questions about heartworm or preventatives, please give the clinic a call at 204-254-3150! We are always glad to help,
In the meantime...have an awesome summer and hope to see you soon!
Dr. Eichkorn and all of us at Winrose