Heartworms in Colorado?


Do I REALLY need to use a preventative? Heartworm disease may be one of the most common, dangerous, and preventable diseases in your area if you live in the front range of Colorado. Heartworm disease was extremely rare here, even 10 years ago. I rarely treated infections back then unlike the dozen cases we treated last year. Granted, heartworm infection is much less common in dry Colorado compared to the southern United States, for example. But, if your pet is the rare case, the low statistics of infection are not very comforting while your dog undergoes expensive and painful injections of treatment drugs and has to remain confined to a crate to limit his movement for a few months.

Mosquitoes spread heartworm. A mosquito becomes infected when feeding on an infected animal (like local coyotes or your neighbor’s dog). It ingests a larval stage of the heartworm called microfilaria found in the infected animal’s blood. The larvae continue to develop and are easily passed to the next animal through the mosquito’s next bite. In about six months those larvae have developed into adult heartworms in the right ventricle of the host, obstructing blood flow and leading to heart failure. And indoor pets, including cats, are just as susceptible to infection as outdoor pets.

Signs or symptoms of heartworm disease can range from few if any in the early stages to severe cough, lethargy, exercise intolerance, weight loss and poor appetite. Later stages result in the fatal damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver.

Even in cooler climates like Colorado, year round preventative administration is important. Mosquitoes can survive year round in warm microclimates like sidewalk vents, large industrial facilities, warm springs and deep dens of wild animals.

The best way to prevent this deadly parasite is to give heartworm preventatives year-round. These medications are very effective with a low incidence of side effects. Plus, most preventatives have the added benefit of ridding your pet of intestinal worms like roundworms and hookworms. Make monthly heartworm prevention a habit in your household. Even generic preventatives get the job done. Set a monthly reminder on your smart phone and wrap that pill in a tasty slice of cheese and down the hatch Fido!

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