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It's better to prevent heartworm disease than treat it

May 11th, 2003, 05:52 AM
It's better to prevent heartworm disease than treat it

Dr. BOB HYLANDS & Dr. CATHY BULLER, Northtown Veterinary Hospital

Heartworm season is in full swing at your veterinary clinic. April 15 to June 1 are the six weeks during which most owners of dogs should be considering getting their pets tested for heartworm disease.

Dogs pick up the heartworm parasite from other dogs, coyotes or foxes via the common mosquito. Heartworm should not be confused with the virus new to Ontario within the last year, termed West Nile virus. Thankfully, West Nile has not been shown to be a significant problem in dogs and cats even in areas of the U.S. where it has been a problem longer than in Canada.

With heartworm disease, the mosquito passes larvae into the bloodstream that then travel to the heart. There, the worms literally pack the heart and cause heart failure. In Ontario, the weeks after April 15 are the best for testing for the disease, just prior to when dogs should start the prevention on June 1.

According the 2002 Heartworm Survey, in Canada last year there were 354 cases of heartworm disease in dogs and two in cats. Of those, 268 of the dogs and both cats were from Ontario. While cats can be affected, they are not a preferred host for the worm, and therefore the disease is much less common in them. The hotspots in the province continue to be southwestern Ontario and Brantford/ Caledonia.

The total numbers have stabilized over the past several years, likely due to the numbers of dogs on heartworm preventative medication. Although the overall incidence is low, the condition is still considered to be endemic in Ontario. It is wise to protect your dog by giving heartworm preventative medication from June through November.

There are several options for heartworm prevention. The most popular still tends to be the once a month chewable tablet. Many of these carry protection from other parasites as well. Alternative options include a topical medication applied once a month, and an injection that lasts six months to prevent heartworm in dogs.

Just as in the human medical community, your veterinarian is focused on prevention of disease as well as treatment. In the case of Heartworm, the disease is deadly, and the treatment, difficult. But the prevention is relatively simple.

April 4th, 2004, 04:49 PM
Our dog, who is 10 and has been on preventative all of his life, has contracted the infection. Although the drug company is paying for the treatment, it does not comfort me at all.

We all get old and our bodies give out -- but I do not think I can handle it if we lose him to this dreadful disease.

I am sick and my heart is breaking -- he is going in for treatment tomorrow and if he survives, will be home Wednesday. Do you have any advice as to how to keep him calm and still for 4 weeks? Is is a labrador mix, has never been crated, and gets very excited when we get home.

Praying in NC