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New Column: Pets Benefit from Year-Round Use of Heartworm Tablets

Dr. Breslin encourages you to ask questions about your pet by e-mail or in the Comments section.

I am excited to join the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch staff as a contributor, and look forward to offering veterinary medical advice and answering some frequently asked questions involving the health of your pet.

I want those questions to come from you, the pet owner.  If there is a topic you would like me to address in future columns, leave a question in the Comment section of the column, or e-mail me directly at drbreslin@lakeforestvets.com 

First, a little about me. I am a small animal practitioner at the Animal Hospital of West Lake Forest. I joined the team of veterinarians in June of 2010 shortly after graduating from the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine. My professional interests include dermatology, internal medicine and soft tissue surgery. I am a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association.

There are many different reasons to bring your pet to the veterinarian. The first that comes to mind is when you notice changes in your pet's normal behavior, such as not eating well, lethargy, or limping.  At the very least, a visit to the vet allows an opportunity to evaluate your pet's overall health at an annual wellness examination.

Heartworm Disease

This month I would like to discuss a very important element of the yearly examination. Often your veterinarian will offer a heartworm blood test or a wellness bloodwork panel that includes the heartworm test.  The most frequent questions I receive and discuss involve what is heartworm disease, are there treatment options available, and how important is it to give heartworm preventative.

A pet is exposed to heartworm disease through an infected mosquito bite. The mosquito acts as a carrier for the disease and becomes infected by feeding on an infected wild animal, such as a coyote. The infected mosquito transmits the parasitic roundworm, Dirofilaria immitis, through a puncture mark in the skin made by the sharp parts of the mosquito’s mouth.

Over time, a period greater then six months, this parasite infiltrates the lungs and in some cases the right side of the heart. Treatment is best sought early on in the infection as the parasite burden can prove deadly. Treatment is expensive and can be risky for your pet.  That’s why the yearly heartworm test is a critical part of evaluating your pet’s overall health.

Many people give their dog a once a month tablet for prevention of heartworm disease. It can exist in a flavored chewable or in some instances applied as a topical. One benefit to giving heartworm preventative year round is that it eliminates the guess work involved.

Mosquito season is not necessarily a definitive range of months. Certain mosquitoes can weather temperatures in the 50 degree range. So while many believe March to November covers their pet, it is not always the case.

An additional benefit is heartworm preventatives offer additional protection for your pet against certain intestinal parasites. Giving that once a month dose may ultimately save you a trip to the vet's  office.

For information on The Animal Hospital of West Lake Forest, visit http://lakeforestvets.com/index.php  For additional information on heartworm disease in canine and feline companions, visit http://heartwormsociety.org

Thomas Dock April 12, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Thanks for this article, Dr. Breslin...it really highlights the importance of regular preventive all year round. Also, we shouldn't forget how vital annual testing is for our dogs. The Veterinary News Network has just released our annual heartworm video "Are Heartworms Winning the War?". It can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu8DQp9-TEU

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