Spring is a wonderful time of year. It ushers in warmer temperatures, sunny skies and longer days. Many of us enjoy those wonderful outdoor spring activities like going for long walks and experiencing the wonderful scents that only freshly budded flowers and trees can offer.
However, this spring is obviously different. While we can still enjoy its wonders, we have all become very aware that governments and medical professionals are trying to create strategies allowing for the safe and successful reopening of our communities and economy due to the threat of Covid-19.
Also, while we focus on how best to preserve our health during these uncertain times, families who have pets are also concerned about the safety and wellbeing of their furry loved ones. This concern is justified since spring, with all its wonder, brings potential danger to our furry family members. And, while it’s true some rare cases of Covid-19 have been detected on the fur of some dogs, the far greater threat to the health of our furry friends is heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease occurs during the spring because warmer weather sets up ideal conditions for the breeding and proliferation of pests like mosquitoes. To our pets, mosquitoes can be much more than a nuisance. They can act as carriers of heartworm disease. One simple bite from a mosquito is all it takes for immature worms to be transferred directly into a dog. These heartworms may then grow up to 12 inches in length and spread to the dog's lungs and heart. If not treated, heartworms can cause severe damage to the organs which may ultimately prove
So, how can a family prevent its furriest members from getting heartworm disease?
The answer is preventative medicine. According to a study published by the Ontario Veterinary College's Department of Pathobiology, the occurrence of heartworm in dogs has increased by 60% since 2002. In one location, 564 dogs tested positive and 80% of the dogs infected were not treated with preventative medication.
Of the 20% that were medicated, some owners missed doses. It should also be noted that vomiting or diarrhea will affect absorption of the medication and may neutralize its potency if oral meds are prescribed. Pills that get spit out won’t work either. These facts drive home the point that both owner vigilance and diligence are extremely important in the prevention of heartworm disease.
So, what steps should you take to ensure your dog is heartworm free this spring?
Simple. Get your dog tested at your local animal hospital/clinic. The test is essential, even if your dog was on preventative medication last year. If the test results come back negative, the veterinarian will prescribe a preventative medication to help you keep your pets protected with medication that are administered either orally or topically (to your pet’s skin).
Talk to your veterinarian and ask which medication will work best for your pet.
Make It A Family Affair
All family members should set alerts on their phones in order to remind everyone else when their pet needs to have its heartworm treatment/meds.
Every family member should closely observe their dog during this time. Ensure the
meds, If taken orally, are completely swallowed and not vomited up. Be aware of the
good ol’ dog trick of walking away with the pill in their mouth only to later spit it out
when no one is looking…ya…it happens.
Also, regarding oral medication, ensure your pet is not experiencing any bouts of
diarrhea while on the meds. Children may be the first to notice this happening since
they usually spend the most time with a family’s pets. So, be sure to inform your
children to immediately report if any strange behavior occurs in your pet that may lead to them not taking the medication. Also, if such incidents are observed, set a follow up appointment with your veterinarian. They may then prescribe a topical treatment (for your pet’s skin) instead of the oral medication.
Ensure The Pet Clinic Is Safe For Everyone
Ensure when you go to your local clinic, it has put in place the currently recommended safety protocols for the Covid-19 pandemic. These may include the entire staff wearing masks, gloves and practicing physical distancing of 6 feet or more.
Also, curbside pick-up should be instituted if there is no need for pet owners to
physically be in the clinic for such things like script refills, foods, toys and leashes etc.
The amount of clients allowed into the hospital/clinic should be limited in order to abide by the 6 feet distancing rule.
Heartworm testing has begun and preventative medications are available at your local clinic. All of us can still enjoy this spring. We can enjoy it even more knowing our pets’ health is maintained through proper care and medication.