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Heartworm (dirofilaria immitis) is a blood-borne parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworm infects dogs and other canine species such as foxes, wolves, and coyotes.
Cats can also become infected, although they are more resistant to infection.
Heartworm infection was once limited to the southern regions of the United States, however it is now found in most areas of the continental United States, Mexico, and Canada – including British Columbia.
In the Okanagan, we have done a fantastic job of keeping this infection at bay by keeping our dogs on heartworm prevention medication during the months that mosquitoes are active: from June to November.
We see very few cases among dogs that live and play in the Okanagan.
The way that this infection can spread into our area is often through the introduction of new dogs that are coming from heartworm-prevalent areas.
With so many wonderful organizations rescuing dogs from warmer locals like California, Mexico, and other Central American countries, it’s important to remember that they may be carriers of heartworm or other foreign parasites.
How do you diagnose or screen for heartworm disease?
Several tests are available to diagnose heartworm disease in dogs. Vet clinics in the Okanagan use a simple blood test that detects antigens secreted by adult heartworms, and it also tests for other diseases such as Ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and Anaplasmosis.
All dogs should have a heartworm test performed if they have not previously received some form of heartworm preventative treatment.
Treatment of heartworm disease is time-consuming, expensive, and can be associated with serious and potentially fatal complications depending on the severity of infection.
Prevention is a much safer and more cost-effective method. It helps reduce the prevalence of Heartworm in the animal population, thus limiting transmission of the disease.
To help keep our dogs safe, it is very important to administer heartworm prevention from June to November in British Columbia. In some areas such as the Southern USA, Heartworm prevention is necessary year-round.
This is very important to remember if you are travelling to a southern location in the winter.
For more information about heartworm Disease, visit our website here: http://www.
Pets First with Fairfield Animal Hospital offers monthly tips and information for pet owners in the Okanagan, so that we can all stay safe and have fun with our furry friends in this beautiful valley! Fairfield Animal Hospital offers high-quality, compassionate care for your feline and canine companions.