In March of last year, we were advised that Ray’s final blood test confirmed his treatment for Heart-worm (the previous summer) had been successful, which meant that there was no evidence of any microscopic “babes” in his system.
That whole episode in Ray’s life was a very emotional roller coaster for us, and it was exacerbated by the apparent disbelief with which other dog owners (and even vet technicians) responded to it. It was not that they were unsympathetic, but more just totally surprised because, after all, “Heartworm is a rarity around here.” A few phone calls to other vets in our general area provided information to the contrary and in fact one office had recorded 30 cases to date for that season!
Some basic research made it clear that, while regular monitoring for statistical purposes was non-existent, incidents of Heartworm in Southern Ontario had increased by 60% between 2002 and 2010. This seemed to be generally attributed to a couple of circumstances, the main one being the “It’s not likely to happen to my pet” thinking. The other factor was the influx of rescued dogs from the southern U.S. and other locations where mosquitoes thrived all year.
As a basic “primer” in Heart-worm, it must be understood that because it is spread by mosquitoes, you only need one animal (domestic or wild) to have it in order for the condition to be spread. Domestic dogs and cats, together with a range of wild animals, are all targets for a Heart-worm implant by a passing mosquito so having a potential donor in any area that supports mosquitoes is quite likely.
The mosquito finds a lovely warm body for the microscopic Heart-worm babe to grow, which it does by living off its unknowing host. Over a relatively short period of time, the Heart-worm population grows with adults reaching the size of spaghetti strings, and are forced to spread out to other parts of the host. The end result is a slow and painful death if left untreated.
I felt that pet owners in our general area needed a “wake up call” on the issue. While mosquitoes around here are only active for around 6 months of the year, it still presents a significant risk and I consequently created a short video (starring the beloved Ray) which was adopted by our vet for Heart-worm prevention promotional purposes. For those of you who are not familiar with the condition, I hope that the video is informative.
The reference to NOAH in the video is the North Oakville Animal Hospital. All the staff there have done a wonderful job of taking care of our Ray from before, during, and after the Heart-worm episode.