Heartworm Season 2012

Heartworm season won’t be starting early this year

Although we’ve all seen some pesky mosquitoes already this year, they aren’t bringing an early start to the heartworm transmission season in Ontario, say parasitologists.

A disease of canines and the occasional cat or two, heartworm has a complicated life cycle requiring mosquito carriers, a pool of infected animals and extended periods of warm weather.

According to Dr. Scott Weese at the University of Guelph, the unusually warm weather in March should not change the recommended date of June 1st to start giving heartworm prevention to dogs in our area.

On the other hand, since his reassurances are based on the fact that the preventatives we use have a “reach back” of seven to eight weeks, dog owners should be careful not to be late starting the medications this year.

For any ultra-cautious pet owners, starting treatments a month early, on May 1st, is an option. It is quite safe to start early – the extra dose required just increases costs a bit.

No one seems to know what the long term effects of the weirdly warm spring weather will be – bumper crops of bugs are expected, but mosquitoes may die off early due to lack of puddles and pools in which to breed.

We’ve already seen the start of tick season here in Quinte West and fleas won’t be far behind.

Several new products to control parasites have been introduced in Canada recently. Contact your veterinarian for advice.

For more information about heartworm from Dr. Scott Weese, see his Worms and Germs blog.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital
March 2012