Dr. Webster’s BLOG

Heavy Rains Bring Record Number of Mosquitoes

expert vet caring for a dog with heartwormsThe rainy season is well underway, and many spots around the Tampa Bay area are already 12 inches over the season’s normal totals. More rain almost always means more mosquitoes- and that’s certainly the case this year. Certain spots in Polk County are experiencing record numbers of mosquitoes- and officials state that one mosquito trap snared more than 30,000 mosquitoes in one night. Throw in the threat of Tropical Storm Dorian on the horizon, and the mosquito population will continue to explode. With the increased number of mosquitoes, the threat of heartworm disease jumps substantially.

The veterinary community has seen this happen before. When hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the gulf coast, we found that displaced pets had a much higher incidence of heartworms. Hundreds of thousands of pets were displaced due to the storm- and it was estimated that 60% were positive for heartworms. I realize that the number of displaced pets here in Florida post-Irma is significantly lower, but the fact remains that the carrier of the disease- the mosquito- is hitting hard. When comparing the data compiled from veterinary facilities nationwide, it shows a huge increase for heartworm disease incidence nationwide post 2005 Katrina.  You can see the 2016 incidence map from the American Heartworm Society here.

To be clear, not all mosquitoes spread heartworms. A mosquito must first take blood from an infected animal- whether it is a dog or a cat. (Yes, cats can get heartworms, too). Once the mosquito has fed on a heartworm positive animal- they can spread heartworm microfilaria to other animals. Once the microfilaria enter a dog’s or cat’s bloodstream, the heartworm will begin to affect their pulmonary system. Some things to remember about heartworms:

  • Heartworms can significantly shorten your pet’s lifespan and ultimately lead to death.
  • Your pet will likely show no signs of heartworm disease until after the disease has become well-established.
  • More than 300,000 pets are diagnosed with heartworm disease each year
  • Heartworm disease is expensive to treat. The cost of prevention is a fraction of the cost of treatment.

The best defense is monthly heartworm prevention. There are several heartworm prevention products on the market, including an injectable prevention that lasts for 6 months. Ask us which product will be best for your pet. Almost all of these products offer a guarantee- when given as directed- or they will pay for heartworm treatment (which is expensive). Each manufacturer is different- so read their fine print for their guarantee details. Monthly heartworm prevention is a fraction of what it would cost to treat your pet for a heartworm infection.

What else can I do? 

professional surgery from our certified vets in south tampaEliminate areas where mosquitoes can breed. Any standing water around your home can be a breeding ground for these bloodsucking insects. Go around the entire house and look for buckets, tarps, gutters, planters, tires- anything that can hold water. If there is any standing water- get rid of it. If you plan on using any chemical treatments for your yard or insecticide, make sure you read the packaging carefully to ensure they are safe for your pets.

For more information on heartworms and other parasites that can affect your pets- visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s website at www.petsandparasites.org and The American Heartworm Society’s page at www.heartwormsociety.org


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