Veterinarian Expresses Concern Over Heartworm, Urges Prevention

On Average, Seven Dogs Every Year will Receive Treatment for Heartworm at Animal Allies Humane Society in Duluth

DULUTH, Minn. – The disease is deadly, but the group targeted cannot speak up when they’re feeling ill.

Heartworm is more common in southern states due to warm weather year round, but it doesn’t mean animals in the Midwest are out of the clear.

“I have actually seen mosquitos out already,” said Lindsay Niemi, Practice Manager at Animal Allies Humane Society.

Many of us are thankful for warmer weather but it also comes with more risk.

“Heartworm is spread by mosquitos,” said Niemi. “A lot of people don’t think that heartworm is an issue in Minnesota, but it is.”

Niemi recently started working at Animal Allies in Duluth. She tells FOX 21 throughout an average year the shelter will treat roughly seven animals that have fallen victim to the microscopic baby worms.

“Right now at Animal Allies we have two heartworm positive dogs,” said Niemi. “What happens is literally worms grow in the dog’s heart.”

Right now, Gracie the dog is battling heartworm. Niemi says animals with the disease will need a series of injections to kill to worms as well as strict cage rest. It could take up to six months for the worms to die off and be completely out of the animal.

“If it’s not treated what would happen is the worms would just live in the dog’s heart and eventually their heart would stop working,” said Niemi.

It’s a fatal fact veterinarians say pet owners can easily prevent.

“It’s sort of like flea and tick prevention. It’s just best practice to do it all year, once a month,” said Niemi.

Niemi says year round prevention is important, even in the winter months when mosquitos aren’t out.

“You give it once a month like a treat and it does prevent them from getting heartworm,” said Niemi.

Without a monthly chewable pill and once a year blood screening, experts say you could end up with a medical bill around $800 – $1,000 dollars.

“It impacts people financially. The treatment is very expensive,” said Niemi. “Heartworms are very small but then when they multiply they just take up all of the room in the heart and the heart cannot function anymore.”

Niemi says it’s important to also protect cats year round with preventative medication.

However, according to the American Heartworm Society, cats are an atypical host for heartworms meaning most worms in cats do not survive to the adult state.

Click here for more information.

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Credit: American Heartworm Society

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