Rain, Mosquitoes & Heartworm

By: | July 16, 2015

The St. Louis area has had a particularly rainy summer, and where there’s rain, there’s mosquitoes.  Keep your pet safe from potentially deadly heartworms carried by mosquitoes by learning about the problem and how to keep it from harming your furry friend.

When an infected mosquito bites your pet, it transmits tiny parasitic worms into their blood that travel into your pet’s lungs and heart. As the worms grow, they also reproduce, leading to more worms attaching themselves to the organs and further limiting their functionality. Heartworms can live up to 7 years in a dog and grow to be 12 inches.

Image from the American Heartworm Society
Image from the American Heartworm Society


While cats are not considered an ideal host environment for heartworms, and it is less common to see cases of heartworm in cats, it is still possible for cats to contract heartworms from mosquitoes. Unlike with dogs, there is no approved treatment for heartworm in cats, so it’s important to keep those felines on preventative as well, even if they are indoor cats.

If your dog tests positive for heartworm, there are few options for treatment. Immiticide is an arsenic-based drug that is injected into muscles of dogs to kill the worms. After a series of shots, dogs must be kept quiet and contained for months as the worms die off. Too much activity or exercise can cause the worms to break up too quickly and cause blood clots, leading to complications in the lungs or heart failure. Even when quietly contained during treatment, the toxic effects of arsenic can be damaging to the dog’s organs.

Injections of immiticide are not only difficult on your dog’s body, they are hard on your wallet, too. According to the American Heartworm Society, with bloodwork, x-rays, treatments and vet visits, the total cost of treatment can be up to 15 times the cost of a year’s supply of preventative.

The other common option for treating heartworms is administering a monthly preventative (such as Heartguard Plus) once heartworms are detected. This treatment is much less expensive than immiticide injections, but it only kills off the larvae, called microfilariae, leaving the adult worms in the system. This treatment is a long-term solution that works best in cases where the heartworm is not too advanced.

Neither treatment option is guaranteed to successfully treat heartworms in dogs. The best way to treat heartworms is to stop them from forming. Giving your pets a monthly oral or topical treatment (Heartguard, Advantage Multi, or Revolution, e.g.) is the easiest, most effective way to keep your dogs and cats safe from the dangers of heartworm. Be sure to give them preventatives year-round, since there is no good way to know when mosquitoes have gone for the year or when in the spring they will return. Following these simple precautions will leave your pets healthy and mosquitoes high and dry!


4th of July Pet Safety Tips

By: | July 1, 2015

Scary sounds and flashes of light send some animals bolting out the door or over a fence on the 4th of July. The APA Adoption Center sees an influx of stray animals after the holiday. Keep your furry friends safe during the celebrations with these tips.

  • Leave your dog at home when you attend celebrations with fireworks. Don’t expose your pet to the crackling noises and shrieking light displays- even pets who are normally calm tend to react differently to the commotion of the 4th.
  • Never leave your pet unattended outdoors when they go to use the bathroom. Even pets who typically stay in the yard are more prone to jumping fences to escape the frightening sounds.
  • Furthermore, do not chain up your pet outside. A frightened animal will try to run, which can lead to entanglement, injury, or even death.
  • Be sure your pet is wearing current identification. If your pet is microchipped, check that your address and phone number are up-to-date, and the same goes for the ID tags they wear on their collars. 4thjuly kitten
  • Keep your pets indoors that night. Give them a cool, dark room to find a safe place to go. If your dog likes his/her crate, drape a blanket over the top to give them a better sense of security in their “den.”
  • Some people find soft music or a television helps drown out the festivities and gives their pets peace.
  • Dr. Denise Dietsch, Director of the APA Veterinary Clinic, recommends trying pheromone sprays and diffusers, available at most pet stores, to calm frightened pets.  “Pheromones are natural chemicals produced by animals that trigger behavioral responses,” she explains. “In some cases, tranquilizers are the only thing that will help.  Pet owners should consult with their veterinarians to see if this is a possible treatment.”
  • Use caution when allowing your pets outside the next day. The powder discharged by fireworks can be toxic, so it’s best to avoid areas where they might come into contact with the residue.

Follow these tips, and your pets will thank you for giving them a “safe and sane” 4th of July. Happy Independence Day from your friends at the APA Adoption Center!