Heartworm Disease on the Rise in Pasadena

Friday, March 1, 2013 | 10:30 am

Heartworm disease in dogs has been on the rise in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley since hurricane Katrina, warned Dr. Dana Bliefer of Rose City Veterinary.

The rise in mosquito-transmitted heartworm has been contributing to the increase in heartworm disease in the area, Dr. Bliefer added.

“In terms of the heartworm, regionally we have been an area with very little heartworm and not a lot of concern,” Dr. Bliefer told Pasadena Now. She added, “But we do see it as an emerging concern. And ever since Katrina and the influx of the lot of heartworm-positive dogs into the area, we are seeing whether it is in effect with those dogs or not, or increased locally in heartworm cases in dogs with no travel history.”

Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasitic roundworm that is spread from host to host through the bites of mosquitoes. The heartworm is a type of filaria, a small thread-like worm that causes filariasis. The definitive host is the dog, but it can also infect cats, wolves, coyotes, foxes and other animals, such as ferrets, sea lions and even, under very rare circumstances, humans.

The parasite is commonly called “heartworm,” however, that is a misnomer because the adults actually reside in the pulmonary arterial system (lung arteries) for the most part, and the primary effect on the health of the animal is a manifestation of damage to the lung vessels and tissues. Occasionally, adult heartworms migrate to the right heart and even the great veins in heavy infections. Heartworm infection may result in serious disease for the host.

Heartworm infection in canines is widely distributed in the United States. Heartworm infection has been found in dogs native to all 50 states, and is considered at least regionally endemic in each of the contiguous states and Hawaii.

All dogs regardless of their age, sex, or habitat are susceptible to heartworm infection. The highest infection rates (up to 45%) in dogs not maintained on heartworm preventive are observed within 150 miles of the Atlantic coast from Texas to New Jersey and along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries.

According to Dr. Bliefer, the increase in heartworm disease case is something that local veterinarians really feel is becoming important for local pets that even ones that do not travel to be tested for heartworm and using heartworm preventive on a regular basis.

She cited news articles year ago about mosquitoes that transmit heartworms. The rise of mosquitoes that transmit heartworm is being blamed for the increase of heartworm disease in the San Gabriel Valley.

“We’ve got an issue of an increase in the vector population. The mosquitoes that transmit it as well as the source of infection for those mosquitoes and all the heartworm-positive rescue dogs that came from Katrina,” Dr. Bliefer explained.

Rose City Veterinary will host a Heartworm Awareness campaign in March to educate dog owners on the dangers of heartworm infection and how they can prevent or treat their canines from the disease.

For more information or to schedule a dental care appointment for your pet, please visit http://www.rosecityvets.com/ or call (626) 796-8387. Rose City Veterinary is located in East Pasadena at 2695 E Foothill Blvd.





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