Vail Pet Talk column: Get your pet tested for heartworm disease |

Vail Pet Talk column: Get your pet tested for heartworm disease

This recent warm weather has me thinking of what spring and summer have in store — sunshine, cold drinks, longer days … and heartworm. We diagnosed a case of heartworm in a dog last week at our clinic, and it got me thinking how the prevalence of heartworm in the high country has changed throughut the past several years. The prevalence of heartworm in Eagle County has gone up, and we, as veterinarians, recommend that your pets be on prevention.

About heartworm disease

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a dog or cat, it can transmit the heartworm, which grows into a foot-long worm that can live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels. This worm can then cause lung disease, heart failure and other organ failure and is potentially lethal.

Annual heartworm testing is important due to the fact that an infected dog can be successfully treated. It is important to remember that early detection is key to successful treatment. A yearly heartworm test is what the American Heartworm Association recommends, even if your dog is on prevention year-round and even if you live in a place that has cold winters.

You may be wondering why a yearly test is recommended even if you keep your pet on prevention year-round — good question! The reason for this is mostly due to human error — what if you forget a month or just give it a few days late? This allows risk for infection. Other reasons include the dog spitting it out when you aren't looking or vomiting it up. Lastly, we want to ensure that the prevention you are using is working.

Fortunately, heartworm prevention is very effective when given properly. Additionally, it is much safer and more cost effective to give monthly prevention compared to what it is like to treat an infected animal. Contact your veterinarian and get in for a heartworm test soon. Now, here's hoping for some more snow and cold weather.

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Dr. Liz Foster is an associate veterinarian at Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center. She can be reached at 970-328-7085.