The importance of year round heartworm and flea prevention in the dog.
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by the presence of parasitic worms in the arteries of the lungs and heart of dogs. These worms or Microfilaria are passed from one infected dog to another by Mosquitos. The most common clinical signs are cough and exercise intolerance. This disease will infect 100% of the dogs exposed to it that are not on a monthly preventative. But some may ask "if its transmitted through Mosquitos can monthly prevention be skipped during the winter months when Mosquitos are not active?" The answer in my option is no. Mosquitos have very short life cycles that are dependent on weather conditions. They are less active in temperatures below 50 degrees but mosquito eggs do not die in cold weather. The eggs simply hibernate and when the weather conditions are ideal they will hatch no matter the time of year. We have all experienced Kentucky's fickle winters, Freezing one day, balmy the next. Mosquitos can complete their life cycle in a little as 4 days (AMCA) and be out feeding off your canine companion. So, it is a huge risk to only use heartworm prevention in the warmer months in this area of the country. No one wants to lose their best friend to a disease that is one of the easiest to prevent. Heartworm prevention comes in the form of once monthly (most times chewable) tablets that can be purchased from your veterinarian. Please be aware that the vet needs to have proof of a recent negative heartworm test in order to dispense prevention. There is the risk of complications with preventatives if the dog is heartworm positive. Today heartworm prevention has also evolved to having other benefits. Heartworm prevention products also treat intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms and in some cases whipworms. Today heartworm prevention can have a third face to it with added flea prevention. All in a once monthly pill! Fleas, like Mosquitos are weather sensitive and can exist in the environment in this area of the country even durning the winter months if conditions are right. Unlike Mosquitos, fleas will thrive inside during the winter so if you have battled fleas all summer and think a reprieve will come in the winter...it won't! The safest, efficient and cost effective method to prevent heartworm disease, intestinal parasites and fleas is by prevention before a problem even exists. 1 pill a month is nothing compared to your dogs possible discomfort or death as a result of these parasites!
by: Erin Bergen, LVT