You may want to keep a close eye on your pets this summer.
Heartworm and Lyme disease are on the rise in the United States and the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) predicts that more animals may be affected this summer than ever before.
How are pets at risk?
Heartworm is a potentially deadly condition in dogs caused by parasitic worms lodged in the heart. The most common symptoms being a dry cough and shortness of breath, severe cases may end in congestive heart failure and death.
Dogs cannot pass the disease on to other dogs but heartworm disease can be passed to a dog from a mosquito in one bite. The immature worms make their way to the chambers of the heart, where they grow, eventually clogging main blood vessels.
According to VCA Hospitals, canine heartworm disease occurs all over the world, anywhere conditions are warm and wet enough to attract mosquitoes, which transmit the disease.
Heartworm positive dogs become “reservoirs of infection” for mosquitoes to draw from and spread heartworm to other dogs, the CAPC maintains.
Lyme disease is spread by ticks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, humans and their animals alike need to be wary of the backlegged tick, or deer tick. These insects climb onto the ends of grass or bushes, waiting for a new host to move by. Once snagged by fur or clothing, the tick will move to a spot of bare skin and bite its host.
While only leading to symptoms in 5 to 10 percent of dogs, PetMD reports, those that do contract the disease may experience lameness or swelling around joints, lethargy, or lack of appetite.
In very severe cases, dogs infected with Lyme disease end up with liver or kidney damage, and sometimes even heart or nervous system complications.
Where is it spreading?
Both heartworm and Lyme disease are expected to spread into non-endemic areas this summer.
Cases of heartworm can occur anywhere in the United States, particularly in the warmer and wetter Southeast, but a number of veterinarians in the Northwest and Pacific coast have reported a greater number of cases, as well.
Lyme disease, while typically restricted to states east of the Rocky Mountains, is expected to hit record levels in the Midwest, New England, and along the east coast.
What to Look For
- Live in damp, warm areas
- Carry heartworm parasite
- Transmit parasite to host animal
- Most active in the spring and summer
- Live in grassy, wooded areas
- Carry Lyme disease bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi
- Transmit Lyme disease to pets and humans
- Most active in the spring and summer
Why is it spreading?
Warm summers have allowed mosquitoes in the U.S. to expand their territory, bringing the heartworm disease to new areas. With another warm and damp summer predicted for 2018, the pattern is expected to continue.
According to Veterinary News, the diaspora of heartworm infected dogs from hurricane affected regions in 2017 helped spread the disease even further. Though not spreading it to other dogs, they have spread it to regional mosquito colonies, which carry the disease elsewhere.
Lyme disease closely follows the migratory patterns of white-tailed deer and birds, the most common carriers of the ticks that transmit the disease. The ticks are most active, and pose the greatest risk of infection, in the spring and summer as they grow from nymphs to adults.
What can you do?
Pets should be checked for heartworm by a veterinarian if they exhibit any signs of the disease.
Current drugs available are 95 percent effective in curing the disease when caught early enough, VCA Hospitals reports. Safe and affordable heartworm preventatives are also available, and much more preferable to the pain and frustration of treating an advanced case of parasitic infection.
To prevent Lyme disease, while and after animals are playing outside, they should be checked for ticks. Several options for preventing the disease are offered by the American Kennel Club’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein:
- Check for ticks on your pets feet, mouth, eyes, ears, and tail after walks through woody areas.
- Use a small pair of tweezers to remove the tick completely, or ask a veterinarian for help.
- Flea and tick repellants are available, but it’s best to check with a veterinarian first to see which is right for your pet.
- Keep your grass short to cut down on potential tick hiding spots.
- Lyme disease vaccinations are not appropriate for every dog, but they are effective, and can mean a life of good heath for yours. And, of course, consult your veterinarian to learn the best options.
Use this knowledge to your advantage and enjoy a happy and healthy summer with your animals. Click below and take our pledge to protect your pet!
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