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Warmer weather means your pets are at higher risk of heartworm disease, vet warns

Posted at 10:25 AM, Apr 22, 2019

BELTON, Texas — With warmer weather comes more mosquitoes.

And with more mosquitoes comes the risk of heartworm disease for your pets.

The team at the Belton Small Animal Clinic in Texas said they find the parasites in pets at least once a week.

As a kennel technician at the clinic, Debra Raper cares for other people's pets. However, when she rescued her dog Daisy from an unsafe environment and brought her home, she quickly discovered something was wrong.

That's when she became the client.

"She was breathing a lot harder. She wasn't running around as much," Raper said. "She was laying around sleeping most of the time. And I decided to bring her on in and get everything checked out and that is when I did find out she had heartworms."

So how exactly does this happen?

"Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes will pick up a larva from an infected dog, coyote, cats, etcetera and they can pass it that way and it takes one bite," said Erin Dunkelberger, an associate veterinarian at Belton Small Animal Clinic.

Dunkelberger said if you notice your pet is not eating as much as they usually do, is coughing and just acting out of the ordinary, it may be time to get them tested for heartworms.

"Heartworms — they live inside the heart. They live right between the heart and the lungs. And by living there and growing up there, they can cause a lot of inflammation, a lot of scarring and really damage the heart and the lungs," she said.

However, there are methods for prevention.

"It is 100 percent easier to prevent than it is to treat. The prevention is literally a monthly pill or an every-six-months shot," Dunkelberger said.

Dunkelberger and Raper agree that people should follow these prevention tips because treatment for heartworm disease can often be hard on your pet and your wallet.

"It should be done. The dog can go through a lot of pain. She actually has anxiety after. She gets very stressed out easily now when she's cooped up too long. It's very smart to just get it done," Raper said.

Treatment can include up to four months of cage confinement and can typically cost up to $2,000.