Heartworm Disease is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that can affect our pets, even living here on the coast. “Most people are under the impression that we don’t have heartworm here, but we do have the (temperature) environment that allows for the development of the heartworm larvae in the belly of the mosquito, so it can then be transmitted” says Dr. Karen Novak of Village Veterinary in Mendocino. “Our cases are low compared to inland CA. However just a few miles inland from the coast, it gets hot. The warmer temperatures allow for the survival of the mosquito and the heartworm larvae to develop", Dr. Novak says. Dogs may be asymptomatic in the early stages of infection, but as the disease progresses, they may show symptoms such as weight loss, decreased exercise tolerance and coughing. Cats (and ferrets) can be infected as well, but are not considered good hosts. This means that while in dogs, large numbers of adult worms can be present (up to thirty) and live up to seven years, heartworm infection in cats generally consists of one to three worms that live up to three years.
Prevention can be as easy as giving a once-a-month preventive, such as Heartgard (Ivermectin). For dogs that have never been on preventive, getting your dog heartworm tested at the vet before starting preventive is a good idea. Certain preventive works in arears- this means if adult worms do exist within your pet, giving the preventive could possibly leave a mass of dead worms, affecting the functioning of the heart. A heartworm test at your vet consists of a quick blood draw and a result within ten minutes. Giving your dog a product like Ivermectin could be a good option. Many of us live surrounded by wildlife, such as deer and bobcats, or we simply have many species of animals living on our property with our pets, such as chickens and horses- Ivermectin not only covers heartworms, but also gets roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. Dr. Novak says that "as of 2016, there is hardly anywhere in California that is heartworm free, even here on our gorgeous Northern California coast".