Although previously not a concern for Nevadans, the migration of mosquitoes now poses a deadly threat to local dogs and cats. Contrary to popular belief, heartworm disease is carried by infected mosquitoes and can’t be “caught.”

NO! Your dog won’t “catch” heartworm disease at the dog park and your cat that “stays in the house and never goes outside” is also at risk! The bad guy in this equation is the mosquito! One bite from an infected mosquito and your dog or cat’s organs can suffer from foot-long worm infestation causing severe pain and irreversible damage. Now, let’s make sense of this and why Nevadans should run (not walk) to their neighborhood veterinarian for heartworm prevention.

The state of Nevada is changing. Despite being a desert, new infrastructure has created breeding spaces for mosquitoes. Fact: Mosquitoes grow from eggs laid in water. We believe that the new construction of hotels, condos, and apartment complexes with retained water in ditches, pools, ponds, and waterfalls, creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Nonetheless, it doesn’t stop there. In the last few years, Americans have become more transient with increased travel for work and leisure. As a result, mosquitoes are being transported into the state with migrants, visitors, and goods. They are also being transported with goods. Pets traveling from this region are also becoming heartworm-positive as they travel between state lines. Previously unprotected pets now need heartworm prevention as they travel to high risk regions where mosquitoes thrive and heartworm disease is prevalent. Once a mosquito bites the infected pet, it can transfer baby heartworms (microfilaria) to healthy pets, causing the heartworm disease to form.

Since noticing the spike in the mosquito population in Nevada, we’ve started our own research using client, employee, and public reports. Our research has shown an increase in mosquito sightings and bites within the household. Vacant construction lots largely affected by monsoon season have begun storing water urging the city to remove the settled water where mosquitoes have the potential to breed. Las Vegas residents are flocking to hospitals and urgent care centers to report a red, extremely itchy skin rash unlike anything they’ve experienced before. The rash has since been identified as originating from a mosquito bite.

Our California neighbors are also seeing a spike in their mosquito population. Mosquito-borne diseases are a major public health threat. California officials say that the increase in mosquitoes makes California residents vulnerable to viruses like West Nile, Dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever. Heartworm disease should be added to the list of vulnerabilities for dogs and cats. All cats and dogs living in Nevada should be tested for heartworm disease yearly. Heartworm testing in dogs is completed using a small amount of blood for a SNAP Test. Results can be read in 8-10 minutes.

Now is the time for Nevada dog and cat owners to get ahead of the mosquito migration and implement consistent heartworm disease prevention. Prevention is easily administered in the home. Speak to your veterinarian about the best heartworm preventative options for your pet. Puppies as young as 4-6 weeks and kittens as young as 8 weeks can begin on a preventative.

HWD Equation: Infected Mosquito + Host = Heartworm Disease

  1. The Infected Mosquito aka THE BAD GUY
    One bite from an infected mosquito develops into an internal infestation of foot-long worms causing severe damage to the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels. This damage, in many cases, is irreversible. Infected mosquitoes carry microscopic heartworms which are deposited into your pet with a mosquito bite. Once in the bloodstream, these baby worms migrate to the heart and other organs where they can grow up to 12 inches long causing irreversible damage and sometimes death!
  2. The Host
    The host is your beloved dog or cat. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, your pet becomes a host for hundreds of microscopic larvae that grow into foot-long worms. If a host is not protected against heartworm disease they become susceptible to the fatal disease with a single mosquito bite which can lead to complications including death.
  3. One mosquito bite can be fatal! Although unable to speak to you, your dog will begin to show signs that something just isn’t right.
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Coughing
    • Fatigue
    • Weight Loss
    • Distended Abdomen
  4. Prevention
    Prevention is simple, cost-effective, and can save your pet’s life. Diagnosis and treatment however can be costly! It’s as easy as 1 pill monthly to protect your baby against this deadly disease.Ann Road Animal Hospital encourages dog and cat owners in Nevada to have their cats and dogs tested for heartworm disease and started on a monthly preventative immediately.

Written by Jewel Bullard-Gee, MBA

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