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Heartworm Disease…..Should You Be Worried?

Heartworm disease used to be thought as a rare ailment in Arizona, limited to the Midwest and eastern portions of the US.  Over the years it has migrated across the US. Year over year,  Arizona has more mosquitoes and more cases of heartworm disease.  Micro-climates such as golf courses, backyard ponds, unkempt pools/foreclosure areas, and irrigated fields cultivate mosquitoes.  Combined with local wildlife such as coyotes that serve as a reservoir for heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease is a blood parasite (a nematode) that is passed by mosquitoes.  The Heartworm life cycle begins when a mosquito bites a pet and transmits the baby worm.  Heartworms can lead to severe disease, congestive heart failure, and even death.  Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, decrease appetite, weight loss, and fatigue after moderate activity.

We are now having to discuss Heartworm disease in Arizona and make a stronger recommendation for year-round prevention.  Many of our residents also travel to areas with mosquitoes making prevention even more important.  Treatment for adult heartworm is expensive, time consuming, and can be dangerous.  We recommend that its “better to be safe than sorry” by preventing this infection.  Prevention is easy.  Before starting a preventive, it is important to test your pet to ensure they do not already have the disease and if you travel to high risk areas – Screen annually.  This is an emerging problem.  If you have any questions or concerns about Heartworm disease/preventive or have travel plans, please feel free to discuss with our friendly team so you can make an informed decision about you pets health.

-Dr. Stephanie Lemus

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