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Heartworm a pet risk beyond summer

Oct. 17, 2011 at 1:42 AM
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WILMINGTON, Del., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Many think fall signals the end of heartworm season in pets, but U.S. veterinarians and researchers say the parasite is not just a summer threat.

Officials of the American Heartworm Society said if pet owners delay heartworm prevention they may put their pets at greater risk of incurring the life-threatening affliction, which affects the lungs' arteries.

"Heartworm is endemic in many parts of the United States, due to conditions that favor the proliferation of mosquitoes that carry the [parasite] and the high reservoirs of animals carrying heartworm larvae," veterinarian Wallace Graham, president of the American Heartworm Society, said in a statement.

"Meanwhile, the mosquitoes that carry heartworm ... breed in standing water, and late-summer weather events such as hurricanes and heavy storms have left plenty of standing water in their wake."

Pet owners should know that:

-- Heartworm is everywhere; it has been confirmed in all 50 states.

-- Dogs are more susceptible to heartworm than cats, but cats can become seriously ill from just a few worms. Cats should get preventive medication, because there is no effective medication for cats.

-- Heartworm in dogs can usually be treated, but veterinarians have limited medication supplies. Treatment requires careful monitoring, cage confinement for a month or more and cost of about $1,000.

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