Did you know that dogs can be bitten by as many as 500 mosquitoes PER DAY in peak season? Mosquitoes are on the move in the United States. Tropical species of mosquitoes are now being found as far north as Minnesota and as far west as Nevada.
So, what does this mean for your pets? First and foremost, we need to come to grips with the fact that mosquitoes are more than just pesky little bugs. Over 70 species of mosquito have been shown capable of transmitting dangerous heartworms to dogs and cats, and only half of owned dogs and a mere 5 percent of cats actually receive preventative heartworm treatment. This is devastating news for the health of our pets!
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Many people still believe that heartworm disease is a “Southern Dog Disease.” Perhaps in the early days of research on this disease, this could have been perceived as true. Now, however, it is blatantly obvious that this is a disease spread throughout the United States and is quickly reaching epidemic proportions.
Why is this? For many years, veterinarians have told their clients that in “their” part of the country, or during “this” time of year, heartworm prevention isn’t necessary. We now know better than this. As urban sprawl continues, and shopping centers and parking lots continue to create “heat islands” that are capable of moderating temperatures throughout seasonal changes, we create microcosms for these parasitic vectors to survive. A mosquito larva can survive in any small puddle, even a flowerpot!
This is why heartworm prevention is essential for dogs and cats. No matter where you live, no matter your lifestyle, dogs and cats should be on heartworm prevention. Even if you have an inside only, litter box trained cat or mini-dog, this still means you! Mosquitoes can travel through doors, windows or even on fabrics into your home and infect your pet. When your pet’s health is at stake, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Unfortunately, mosquitoes aren’t the only little buggers that you need to be worrying about, though. Ticks are on the move, too. Ticks that used to only be found along the Gulf Coast are turning up in the Central United States and their parasites and diseases are going along for the ride. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, and Ehrlichiosis are being diagnosed all over the United States, both in animals and in people.
Bartonellosis, or Cat Scratch Disease is on the rise as well. The causative agent, Bartonella henselae, is transmitted between cats by fleas and is likely to be terribly under-diagnosed due to emerging symptoms until now unknown as they are not listed among the ‘classic’ symptoms of the disease. Fleas also carry tapeworms, which can cause severe gastrointestinal problems in our household pets.
So here’s the bottom line: talk to your veterinarian about having your pet on monthly parasite preventatives. Many preventatives on the market are “cross-pollinators,” meaning that a flea and tick preventative can prevent mosquitoes, or a heartworm preventative can prevent intestinal parasite infestation. If you can protect yourself, your family and your pet with a once monthly dosage of a proven-safe medication to your pet, why wouldn’t you? Call your veterinarian today.
Dr. Katy Nelson is the mother of five – two human and three animal – kids, an avid nutrition and fitness enthusiast, and an admittedly rabid Louisiana sports fan. She is an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, VA., as well as the host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8. A Certified Veterinary Journalist (CVJ) accredited by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists (ASVJ), Dr. Katy is the Animal Health Reporter for ABC7 News, and serves as “Dr. Pawz” on WTOP Radio. Dr. Katy is also a founding partner of PetsMove.org, a national health and fitness initiative aimed at getting people healthy alongside their dogs, and serves as a media and marketing consultant for numerous pet-related companies and media outlets.
A lover of all animals, Dr. Katy carves out time for many charitable organizations in the DC area and beyond. In early 2012, Dr. Katy teamed with Emmy-Award winning producer Judy Plavnick to form Sit. Good Girl Productions, LLC, their first production is the documentary Tell Them I Am Kind, the story of the creation of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.