According to a recent study conducted by The American Heartworm Society (AHS), heartworm disease continues to be a major health concern throughout the United States. The study indicates the need to continue to raise awareness among the more than 82 million pet owners about this potentially deadly disease and correct some of the misconceptions about its transmission, prevention and treatment.
The results of the study show that heartworm incidence in dogs is on the rise in the US and there is a continued increase in the geographical spread of the disease. The extended occurrences were found particularly in the northwest region and around the Rocky Mountain States. The Delta, South-central and Southeast regions also saw an increase in reported cases, with prevalence being the highest in the Delta region.
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Heartworm disease is found in all 50 states. All dogs, regardless of breed, size, general health – and whether they are considered indoor or outdoor pets – are vulnerable to it. Once a dog tests positive for heartworms, treatment for the disease is complicated. It's lengthy, traumatic to the pet and its owner, expensive, and can be risky. Cats can get infected too, and while heartworms are easy to prevent, there is no approved treatment if they get infected. .
Heartworms are transmitted by an infected mosquito biting your dog and depositing tiny larvae on the skin which migrate through the tissues and mature until they reach the heart and lungs. There, they cause debilitating damage that can rob the animal of its energy, its quality of life and, eventually, of life itself.
“Fortunately, there is an easy, reliable way to prevent pets from contracting heartworm disease in the first place,” said Dr. Sheldon Rubin, president of AHS. “Heartworm Preventives are highly effective, convenient to administer, and available at a small fraction of the cost of treatment,” he added. They must be dispensed by a licensed veterinarian.
Pet owners are urged to consult their veterinarians about heartworm disease, and to follow his or her recommendations carefully in order to protect their pets. “The American Heartworm Society (AHS) hopes to raise pet-owner awareness of heartworm disease and has designated “April is Heartworm Awareness Month,” said Dr. Sheldon Rubin, president of AHS.