According to a State of Pet Health Report by Banfield Pet Hospital in Jackson, nearly seven percent of dogs in Mississippi will acquire heartworms this summer, the highest across the nation. “In Mississippi if they are not on prevention they will most likely get heartworms disease,” says Veterinarian Stacey Nauta with Dilworth Small Animal Hospital in Tupelo. It is so important to make sure your dogs are receiving the proper preventative care when it comes to preventable diseases like heartworm disease.
The reason the risk of heartworm disease is so high in Mississippi is the higher than normal number of mosquitos, which is where heartworms originate from. What happens is a mosquito drinks blood from a heartworm infected dog and takes the worm with it. The mosquito then lands on a dog that is not properly prevented for and basically injects the heartworm into the unsuspecting dog, and the cycle continues. With the high number of mosquitoes, it is easily seen how the risk of hearworm disease is so high.
Heartworms can live for 5-7 years, can also affect the dogs lungs, and are prevalent in all 50 U.S. states. All dogs regardless of their age, sex, or habitat are susceptible to heartworm infection, which is why prevention is necessary. Symptoms of heartworm disease include cough, shortness of breath, fainting after exercise, tiring easily, weight loss and loss of appetite, and listlessness and nervousness. There may be anemia, jaundice, poor coat condition, swelling of the abdomen, as well as bloody stool. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, immediately contact your veterinarian.
Prevention is so important in dogs because hundreds of heartworms can live in one single heart, making it very easy for mosquitoes to collect them and carry them to other dogs. There are a variety of ways you can prevent heartworm disease in your dog including the most common, a chewable tablet. A popular vet recommended brand is Heartguard, but there are other brands available. Another heartworm prevention medication is called Interceptor, which is a small pill-like tablet that can be easier for smaller dogs to take. If your dog has been infected with heartworms, a possible treatment could be Immiticide and would be administered by your veterinarian.