Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vets warn of deadly heartworm risk after floods

The heavy rain this year (with more to come) and widespread flooding have cause a boom in mosquito numbers.  As mosquitoes carry heartworm, a deadly parasite of dogs, we can expect this disease to surge in areas where heartworm prevention is not widely used.  Make sure your dog is protected by giving a monthly heartworm tablet or yearly heartworm injection.
A Press release from the Australian Veterinary Association follows.
Read Cairns Vet pet advice and Pet news on the web.
Queensland pets at risk
Dog owners cautioned about heartworm
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is warning Queensland residents to prepare for an outbreak of heartworm following the recent flood crisis.
Heartworm is a parasite which is passed from animal to animal by the bite of a mosquito and the AVA is calling on all dog owners to take preventative measures for the potentially fatal disease.
Dr Jodie Wilson, Queensland President of the Australian Veterinary Association says the significant mosquito numbers brought on by the floods will result in an increased risk of the disease. 
“Incidence of the disease can rise when temperatures and mosquito numbers increase. Currently, the aftermath of the Queensland flood crisis has meant that the climate is ripe for an increase in mosquito and heartworm numbers,” said Dr Wilson.
“We recommend dog owners visit their local vet to find the most appropriate treatment for their animal. While prevention can be as easy as a once a year injection, if a dog is infected, it becomes very hard to treat and can become potentially lethal,” she said.
Local Bundaberg vet Dr Andrew Marland said that Queenslanders should step up their preventative measures to protect dogs from heartworm. However, Dr Marland added that this is a unique situation which could result in a significant outbreak.
“As Queensland residents continue to clean up following the floods, we urge them to visit their vet and discuss heartworm options for their dog,” said Dr Marland.
The number of displaced animals is also expected to impact the spread of the disease, with many heartworm infected wild animals and lost pets already displaced from their usual habitats by the rising flood waters.
According to the American Heartworm Society, hurricanes Katrina and Rita saw a similar impact on heartworm levels, with an estimated 60 percent of the pets displaced by Hurricane Katrina likely to have been infected with the illness.[i]
“It is in crises such as these that compliance with monthly heartworm treatments may become more difficult due to extenuating circumstances. Dog owners looking for a simpler solution should speak with their vet about a once a year heartworm injection to take the worry out of pet health during the following months,” said Dr Marland.
Signs of heartworm can include:
Lethargy or general tiredness
tiring easily with exercise
loss of appetite
enlarged or swollen abdomen
Queensland residents concerned that their dog may be infected should immediately talk to their local vet about treatment.
Jacob O'Shaughnessy
Media Relations Manager
The Australian Veterinary Association
Unit 40, 6 Herbert Street
St Leonards NSW 2065
Ph: 02 9431 5062
Fax: 02 9437 9068
Mob: 0439 628 898

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