It’s Heartworm Prevention Month, and I’ve been bracing for the return of mosquitos — to drive me and my dogs mad all summer long. Just the other night, as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a familiar buzzing sound by my ear. Visions of heartworm and West Nile virus raced through my mind as I grabbed my trusty bottle of Neem oil, and dabbed the stuff on everyone in the house: dogs, cats, and myself.
The next day, I hopped on the subway to race to a meeting … and I noticed a skeeter hovering around my ankles (which for some reason are mosquito magnets).
But in spring?
It appears that any time the weather turns wet, there will be blood — sucked by mosquitos from unsuspecting dogs and other creatures. That’s why the American Heartworm Society is urging pet owners to continue administering heartworm protection to dogs all year long. Our dogs need protection from heartworm disease transmitted by these horrid little menaces — because if the mosquitos aren’t taking a break, neither can we.
The American Heartworm Society recently spoke with Tanja McKay, an entomologist at Arkansas State University, and issues a news release on the subject.
According to McKay, some pet owners overlook the fact that rainfall is not the only source of water in which mosquitoes can breed.
“I live in Jonesboro, [AR], and we experienced a severe drought last summer,” McKay is quoted as saying in the release. “But because we have irrigated rice fields and runoff from the irrigation sites, we continue to have large numbers of mosquitoes.”
Urban areas, which contain higher concentrations of people and pets, are home to other mosquito breeding grounds.
“Across the country, there are thousands of miles of underground storm drain systems that are perfect places for mosquitoes to breed and multiply,” McKay is quoted as saying.
She also cites watered lawns and gardens as areas with enough standing water for mosquito to breed. Recent outbreaks of West Nile are strong evidence that mosquitoes are resilient and adaptable.
McKay says numerous mosquito species are known for their adaptability to various conditions.
“Some mosquitoes breed and hatch in low-lying areas that flood when it rains, while others prefer old tires, tin cans, and birdbaths,” McKay says.
She also points out that a drought can help certain species because their predators and competitors die from lack of water. (Here’s a fun but frightening factoid: Mosquitos are such tough suckers, they can fly through rain unscathed!)
The American Heartworm Society recommends that people protect their pets against heartworms year-round.
In the same news release, society President Wallace Graham warns, “While some reports have referred to lower mosquito populations as the drought’s ‘silver lining,’ the reality is that mosquitoes are surviving — and reproducing — at sufficient levels to sustain the threat of heartworm disease transmission.
“We urge owners to remain vigilant about heartworm protection and remember that it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit a disease that can threaten the life of a pet.”
At my animal house, I intend to extend heartworm protection all year-round, but I’ll do it the natural way, with neem (in oil, shampoo, soap, spray, and supplement forms) plus diatomaceous earth. If that means upping the frequency of topical neem applications to twice a day, so be it — thanks to all the good it does, I long ago learned to appreciate this incredible oil’s uniquely garlicky, hard-to-love odor. Having battled canine cancer twice, I simply don’t want to put my dogs at risk by introducing toxic chemicals into their bloodstream via their skin.
Do you administer heartworm protection year-round? What method do you choose, natural or chemical? Please share in the comments!
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