Cheyenne saw fifth highest heartworm disease increases in the nation in July

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CASPER, Wyo. — Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes and is a threat to dogs and cats.

Cheyenne had the fifth highest percentage increase in heartowrm cases among American cities in July, according to a Companion Animal Parasite Council August 2019 report.

The report lists the ten cities with the highest rate increases in July:

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  1. Moreno Valley, California
  2. Washington, DC
  3. Newark, New Jersey
  4. Indianapolis, Indiana
  5. Cheyenne, Wyoming
  6. Tallahassee, Florida
  7. Chattanooga, Tennessee
  8. New Orleans, Louisiana
  9. Sterling Heights, Michigan
  10. Fort Wayne, Indiana

The Companion Animal Parasite Council also provides monthly outlooks in each county for heartworm disease.

Their “30 Day Parasite Forecast Map” says that dogs currently face medium risk for heartworm disease in both Laramie and Natrona County.

Albany County is shown to have the highest current risk in Wyoming.

“Heartworm disease — transmitted by mosquitoes — is a growing national threat to dogs and cats,” the council said. “Many pet owners mistakenly think their dog or cat isn’t at risk for heartworm because they don’t live in what has been historically considered a heartworm ‘endemic’ region of the country.”

“This is no longer the case.”

The council says that even one animal infected with heartworm can cause the disease to spread rapidly, particularly with warmer conditions favorable to mosquitoes.

They added that the following factors can also contribute to heartworm prevalence in pets:

Pet owner non-compliance in administering heartworm preventatives on schedule — every month of the year.

Travel-related exposure to heartworm infected dogs and cats — According to the American Pet Products Association, 37% of pet owners are traveling with their pets every year, up from 19% a decade ago.

Transportation of heartworm infected shelter/rescue dogs and cats, especially after natural disasters.

Mosquito microclimates — Even during cold winter months, mosquitoes thrive in warm spaces such as sewers, stormwater drains, crawl spaces and alleys. Mosquitos can survive 12 months a year, and with changing weather patterns, are constantly adapting to colder climates.

Companion Animal Parasite Council

The council recommends that pet owners find heartworm protection for their animals every month of the year and encourage people to have pets tested.

Heartworm rates have increased each of the past five years and are up 20% from 2013 levels, the council states.

“When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it transfers the microscopic heartworm parasite (larvae) to the next dog or cat it bites,” their press release says. “It only takes one heartworm-infected dog to substantially increase the number of infected mosquitos that can transmit heartworm parasites.”

“This was clearly demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology which found over 73% of mosquitoes collected inside the kennel of just one heartworm-infected dog, demonstrating that ‘a single heartworm-positive dog potentially increases infection pressure on susceptible animals sharing mosquito exposure.’” 

Mosquitoes can survive in places like sewers, stormwater drains, crawl spaces and alleys even during winter months, veterinarian Craig Prior said in the release.

“’There can be two feet of snow on the streets, but between high-rise buildings, it may be 50 degrees and wet —a perfect environment for mosquitos to breed,'” Prior said.

Pet owners are bringing their animals with them more when they travel which may expose them to the disease.

“According to a 2017-18 American Pet Products Association survey, 37% of pet owners are traveling with their pets every year – up from 19% a decade ago,” the council said. “And a recent TripAdvisor survey indicates travel with pets is expected to rise 49%.”

Moving dogs for adoption from one region to another is another possible factor facilitating the spread of heartworm disease, according to the council.

“While CAPC supports efforts to find every rescue dog a home, pet owners need to understand that imported dogs may be unwittingly infected with heartworms and become a reservoir of infection in their communities,” they wrote.

Heartworm disease is preventable if pet owners take the proper steps.

“’Most people consider their pets as family members and wouldn’t knowingly expose them to infection with a potentially fatal disease that can ultimately compromise the length and quality of their lives,'” Prior said.

“Yet millions who fail to protect their pets every month from heartworm infection are doing just that.’”

“’The risk just isn’t worth it. Heartworm preventatives are affordable, safe and effective. This is why CAPC recommends all pets, no matter where they live, be tested annually and placed on heartworm preventatives 12 months of the year.’”