Texas Panhandle veterinarians seeing more heartworm cases than usual

Updated: Mar. 2, 2020 at 9:22 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Veterinarians recommend starting heartworm prevention medication as soon as puppies start their shots and continue medication throughout the life of the animal.

“We did have a dog that came in that had been rescued, and we had a test come up positive for heartworms,” said Hannah Manning, veterinarian tech at P.E.T.S Amarillo.

Heartworms are not transferred from dog to dog but by mosquitoes.

“Any time the temperature goes above 50 degrees, mosquitoes can hatch, and they will try to take a feeding or lay eggs before it freezes again. We usually don’t notice, because they would rather go eat off the dogs, and so the dogs are more at risk than us to get mosquito bites,” said High Plains Veterinary Clinic DVM Jeremy Sell.

Heartworms are not a problem commonly seen in the Panhandle, but vets have seen more cases recently as more people are moving here from the gulf.

“With Harvey in Houston, a lot of those people have moved, and they are bringing their heartworm positive dogs. So then, mosquitoes feed on them, get the larva and then can spread that to all of our dogs. We are seeing a lot more cases than we have in the past,” said Sell.

Prevention medication is a once a month tablet pet owners can put in their dogs food. Treating dogs for heartworms is about 15 times more expensive than prevention medication.

“For a dog that does test positive, it is very expensive and time consuming to treat. It’s multiple injections back to back, and then they have to spend months on cage rest, because as those heart worms are dying, it can cause an embolism,” said Manning.

Even if your dog is on prevention medication, you should do a blood test checking for heartworms at least once a year.

“Some of the heartworm prevention, there is resistance to certain populations of heartworms. Around the Gulf Coast there is a lot of resistance built up, and so we test every year,” said Sell.

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