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.