It’s officially Spring, which for you means longer days and warmer temperatures. For your pets, however, Spring means fleas, ticks, and heartworms.
Heartworm disease is a serious, and potentially fatal, condition that can occur in pets. The defining characteristic of heartworm disease is the presence of parasitic worms that live in the heart and blood vessels that lead to the lungs of your pet.
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquitoes that are infected with heartworm parasites that are contracted from other infected animals. When your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, immature worms are injected into the tissue of the animal through the saliva. These worms migrate to the lungs and heart where they continue to grow and reproduce, resulting in possibly fatal damage to the heart, lungs, and liver of your pet.
Another risk to both your pet, and yourself, in the Spring is the presence of ticks. Ticks that feed off of the blood of an animal infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi pick up the bacterium and carry it in their gut. When these infected Ticks attach themselves to your pet, or yourself, Lyme disease is spread. Lyme disease is a very unpleasant illness, with symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain that can persist for months. Lyme disease has become much more prevalent in the GTA over the last few years, with rates surpassing those of Heartworm disease.
Fortunately, both heartworm and Lyme disease can be easily prevented in your pets. In Ontario, heartworm season typically runs from June to mid-October. This overlaps tick season, which begins in early spring and lasts until late fall. Knowing this, in May we recommend that all dogs come in for heartworm testing, to ensure that they are parasite free. This test is a simple blood test where we will check for the presence of adult parasites. After this test, we can recommend a heartworm prevention medication that will be best suited for your pet. Heartworm prevention medication is very safe and effective, so there are near to zero risks associated with it.
The additional benefit of many heartworm medications is that they also double as flea and tick preventions. This will help make sure that your pet is not only protected against heartworms, but against Lyme disease carrying ticks as well, resulting in a pet is happy and parasite free.