2011-06-10 / Columnists

Paws For A Moment

& Shots, Shots More Shots!
Commentary by Karina B. Salvo, MS, DVM Belle Harbor House Calls

Despite all the chilly weather we have been having here in the Rockaways, spring is here and summer is creeping in closer. They say April showers bring May flowers, but it also brings those pesky little buzzing bugs… mosquitoes! Mosquitoes thrive in areas of stagnant water such as puddles, flower pots, areas that are undisturbed and allowed to collect water. So what’s the buzz about mosquitoes anyway?

Mosquitoes are the cause of Heartworm disease in our dogs and cats!

Mosquitoes have multiple stages of development and require various environments and temperatures to complete their lifecycles. Here in the Rockaways we can have bitter winters, but mosquitoes can find a way to survive through it! Various stages of mosquito development stop during colder temperatures, but quickly resume with warmer weather. Mosquitoes need a blood meal for egg development. When the mosquito bites, it can transmit a life stage of the heartworm with which it is infected. This stage of the heartworm enters into the skin of the animal through the bite wound, undergoes various developmental stages, and eventually develops into an adult worm within the heart or lung of the animal bitten.

The main host (animal that supports the development of a parasite) of the heartworm is the dog. Our feline friends are a less suitable host, but can act as a source of heartworm infection for the mosquitoes that may bite them, thereby increasing the number of infected mosquitoes with heartworm disease in our community.

Signs that we may have a positive pet can range from not having any signs to a cough, not being able to perform the same exercise routine as usual, difficulty breathing, abnormal lung sounds, heart murmur, enlarged liver, fluid accumulation and even death. Our feline friends are a little more tricky! Many have no clinical signs or signs that are so subtle that owner’s don’t even notice! Feline heartworm disease can affect various organ systems other than the heart, signs can be coughing, vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, diarrhea, blindness, weight loss, seizures, increased heart rate, collapse and death.

Yikes! Is it treatable?

Yes and no. Treatment for the dog is available and is more successful in recent years than in prior years, and is dependant upon the extent of infection. It’s expensive and it’s painful …but its available!

Feline friends aren’t so lucky. There is no approved treatment in the US for cats. Some infections in cats have been known to spontaneously resolve as others more heavily infected are treated supportively.

Now that I have depressed all my readers, there is still enough room for the good news! Heartworm disease is PREVENTABLE!

There are a variety of preventives available on the market today ranging from topicals, orals and injectables. It is important to verify that your pet is negative prior to starting a preventative. Testing in both the dog and the cat requires a small amount of blood.

Testing in the dog can be done while you wait. So you know right away.

The cat again gets no easy breaks; it has been recommended (by the American Heartworm Society) that two different blood tests be used to facilitate a more accurate basis for determination of a negative result. Cats are so complicated! (I can say this because I have four frisky felines.)

Being a newcomer to the Rockaways I am excited to see all the May flowers (and move past all of the April showers) and hope that the information I have given my readers gives a little ‘buzzdown’ on the mosquitoes just waiting for all the puddles to accumulate …and gets all my readers READY for HEART-WORM PREVENTION!

May 14 is “It’s My Bark Day” at the Freeway Dog Park on Rockaway Freeway between Beach 80 and Beach 83 Streets ... come join the festivities!!

I welcome questions, comments and suggestions for this column and future column ideas of interest.

Please email me at BelleHarborVet@gmail.com or visit me at www.Belle- HarborHouseCalls.com and Facebook.

Have a Happy and Safe Summer!

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