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Heartworm Disease Spreads as Dogs Travel

Dog owners, be aware of the following scenario:
Alex, a Labrador retriever, lives in a heartworm-endemic state. He has heartworms, but his owners don't know it because the disease is not easily detected until its later stages. Alex travels with his owners on vacation to states where there are fewer incidences of heartworm disease - for example (ALASKA). While in (ALASKA), Alex is bitten by a mosquito, which picks up the heartworm larvae from his bloodstream. Later, the same mosquito bites a healthy local dog, infecting him with heartworm. The cycle continues.

A problem can also result if a dog from a low-incidence state like (ALASKA) travels into a state where heartworm disease thrives. is bitten by a mosquito and then brings the disease back home.

Now that greater numbers of people are traveling across the country with their dogs, on vacation or visiting friends and relatives, no state is entirely heartworm-free.
"Heartworm disease continues to pose a threat to dogs across the United States," noted Dr. Tom Dougherty, President of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association. "Because heartworm disease is potentially fatal, owners should visit their family veterinarian to learn how easy and convenient prevention can be."

When Traveling Help Protect Your Dog from Heartworm Disease

  1. Many states require that owners traveling with their dogs obtain an up-to-date health Certificate from a licensed veterinarian.
  2. As a part of a health examination your veterinarian may check for heartworm . If your dog is not infected, the veterinarian can recommend preventive measures. Prevention is the key to protecting a dog both at home and away.
  3. Upon returning home from a trip, owners should revisit their family veterinarian for an examination to make sure their dog did not pick up any parasites, either internal (e.g., heartworm, Hookworm, roundworm) or external (fleas and ticks).
  4. Remember, annual heartworm tests are important, whether or not dogs are traveling.
"Although heartworm disease is not yet a serious threat in Minnesota, dogs living in the state or visiting an endemic area can be at risk," Dr. Tom Dougherty said. "There are parts of the country where heartworm disease was once non-existent that are now endemic areas. All dog owners should be aware of the dangers of this disease."

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