Rain = Mosquitoes = Heartworms

                Hello from Animal Emergency Hospital of St. Johns.  How about all this rain we’ve been getting lately?  I think we may need to get Four some arm waders soon just to keep him afloat.  Although, I think he would prefer his own yacht complete with a staff to fulfill his every whim.  Oh wait!  He already has a staff for that, now he just needs a big boat.
               Speaking of rain…do you know who else loves these damp conditions?  Mosquitoes!  Those nasty little bloodsuckers are prominent in our area and this rain can make their population skyrocket.  Not only do these bugs cause itchy bites, they can also carry and spread heartworms in our beloved pets.  The mosquito has the starring role in the heartworm life cycle.
                Adult female heartworms live in an infected dog and produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria.  These microfilarias circulate in the bloodstream and when mosquito will take a blood meal from the infected dog, the mosquito becomes a carrier.   These baby worms will then develop into larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days.  When the infected mosquito bites another dog, the larvae are deposited on the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito bite.  Once inside the host, the microfilaria can mature into adult heartworms within the animal’s heart in about 6 months.  Once mature, heartworms can live for 5-7 years in dogs.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?  Many dogs show little to no symptoms in the early stages of heartworm disease.  The longer the infection goes on, the more likely symptoms will develop.  Signs and symptoms may include a mild persistent cough, fatigue after exercise, decreased appetite, and weight loss.  As the disease progresses, more serious symptoms may present such as heart failure and the appearance of a swollen abdomen due to excess fluid.   In serious cases, symptoms include labored breathing, pale gums, dark bloody urine, and death.
So what can you do to combat this deadly disease?  You can try eradicating mosquitoes from all of the great state of Florida.  Or you can treat your pet with a monthly heartworm preventative.  With a prescription for heartworm prevention you can help prevent your pet from ever experiences the symptoms of heartworm disease.   Heartworm preventions works by killing the microfilaria.  Heartworms must be eliminated before reaching the adult stage so we recommend a monthly preventive that can be either topical (Advantage Multi) or oral (Interceptor or Iverhart).
                  We recommend yearly heartworm blood tests and monthly preventative in order to eliminate heartworms and keep your pet healthy and happy.  We gladly stock Advantage Multi which is a topical heartworm prevention that also kills adult fleas, treat and controls roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, and also treats sarcoptic mange.  We also have oral Interceptor and Iverhart which prevent heartworm disease and treats roundworms and hookworms.   If you have questions about what preventative would work for you and your pet, please feel free to call us at (904)794-5071.