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Study Suggests Hearworm Incidence is Rising

Heartworm disease is potentially fatal and completely preventable. The disease is caused by a blood parasite that is spread by mosquitoes. It affects both cats...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Mar 21st 2009


Heartworm disease is potentially fatal and completely preventable. The disease is caused by a blood parasite that is spread by mosquitoes. It affects both cats and dogs, although dogs generally are at greater risk. Heartworm disease can lead to heart failure and a plethora of other problems.

DVM Newsmagazine recently reported on a new heartworm incidence study released by the American Heartworm Society. The study was not rigorously scientific, but it does provide evidence that heartworm incidence is increasing in certain areas. The notable areas in the US include the gulf coast, east coast, and northern California.

The triennial survey was distributed to more than 40,000 veterinarians last fall. Ultimately, veterinary practices from some 2,200 counties were represented . . . [a]ccording to the most recent results, the number of positive cases rose per clinic in 31 states. The reasons likely are multifactorial, including increased heartworm testing, increased client base per clinic or even climate trends.

Actual incidence of heartworm may be increasing. It’s also possible that veterinarians are detecting more cases due to increased testing. Either way, Dr. Sheldon B. Rubin, president of the American Heartworm Society, feels that heartworm disease is inexcusable.

“There is no reason a dog should have heartworm disease today. If we can get more animals on prevention, we will get the numbers of heartworm-infected animals down. It is a serious problem.”

Monthly heartworm preventatives are readily available. They have excellent safety profiles. Many of them have the added benefit of eliminating intestinal worms that may be contagious to human beings. My pal Buster gets his on the first of each month.

I recommend that you talk to your vet about protecting your pet from heartworm.

Photo: Indy contracted heartworm before he was adopted.