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— By Dr. Betty Rigby,

Maul Road Animal Clinic

“Why your pet needs year-round heartworm protection”

The risk of taking a seasonal break from preventing heartworm lies primarily in the unpredictability of weather patterns and fluctuating temperatures. Above-average temperatures and rainfall throughout the country this year have created ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes, the source of this serious, potentially fatal infection.

An abrupt end to winter and an early spring could result in mosquitoes emerging early; similarly, a warm, wet autumn can keep, mosquitoes active later in the season than anticipated.

When a mosquito bites an infected animal, the insect ingests microscopic worms and transmits them when it bites another animal. Heartworms mature and live in the heart and large blood vessels of the lungs. Eventually, an infection could affect blood flow and impact the internal organs, including the heart, lungs, and liver, severely weakening or even killing the animal.

It is estimated that nearly 300,000 dogs become infected with heartworm each year, and cases are reported in all 50 states. Signs that your pet might be infected include a persistent cough, fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss.

It takes just one mosquito bite to infect an animal with heartworm disease, so continuous protection is the best defense.

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