Local veterinarians in Colorado have begun routinely testing their pet patients for heartworms, due to an increase of the parasites found in our beloved pets.
Although still relatively uncommon in our state, over 75 percent of vets in Colorado have seen cases of heartworm disease in the pets they treat. The escalation has been linked to adopted “imports” of dogs and cats originating from the Caribbean and U.S. states with a high mosquito population. For example, in the Bahamas, nearly 90 percent of the street dogs are infected. When an infected animal is rescued and relocated, the disease can be introduced to the local mosquito population, boosting the odds of then-infected mosquitos biting a local animal and injecting the infected blood. From there, heartworms – which can reach up to one foot in length – can develop and, left untreated, will continue to grow within the animal’s heart and lungs, resulting in a fatal infestation.
A simple test can detect the presence of heartworms, which can be treated with a series of injections that kill the worms in dogs; unfortunately, there is no treatment for infected cats. However, since cats aren’t typical hosts for the parasites, most of the worms in a cat won’t survive to adulthood. Be that as it may, the key for keeping your pets healthy is prevention.
Have your pet tested annually, ideally during the spring season, and speak with your vet about which heartworm preventative is best for your cuddly companion. The preventatives also combat roundworms and hookworms.