Monday, July 11, 2011

Where is Heartworm? How Do Pets Get It?

It. Is. Everywhere.

This is the famous Heartworm Map. Sometimes people use it to say, "see we don't have heartworm here." But, according to the Heartworm Society, heartworm has been found in all 50 states. As Shaggy might say, "Zoiks."

So what we need to look at is the text around the map on that Heartworm Society website (and this time no graphic photos when you click on that link).

And that text says that it shows areas in red that are particularly endemic based on number of cases reported by vet clinics. They are even nice enough to tell us what endemic means:


native or indigenous. Originating in that given geographic area.
So we see that the areas in red just have heartworm no matter what. And that other areas have it, but it is not AS native or natural to have it there. But don't think it doesn't happen. Mila is from a light pink area. We have had six dogs test positive this spring/early summer - there are always going to be people who will say that this information is not needed, is reactive and overwrought, and you can read what they have to say as well.

A couple of other points:
If pets don't get tested for heartworm, they don't get reported. It would be quite interesting to see what would happen if all dogs were tested for heartworm. A big national heartworm grant or something!

They call it the Katrina effect of bringing HW+ dogs from the hurricane area and dispersing them throughout the country, bringing the infection with them but we know it's not just Katrina dogs. This is a bigger problem if the people taking dogs from higher heartworm areas to lower heartworm areas don't test and treat. Rescues and shelter adopters that treat help the problem!

Creepy mosquito graphic from
So how do dogs get infected with heartworm? Well, it's complicated. But it's not. We can start with the simple answer. Mosquitoes. We can go complicated next time.

Next Time...

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