Dog owners warned of heartworm spike
A nationwide surge in canine heartworm cases has prompted Pilbara veterinarian Rick Fenny to conduct a survey of dogs in the Pilbara.
In 2014, there were 437 cases reported by vets across Australia, including two in South Hedland.
The outbreak has prompted Dr Fenny to urge local pet owners to get their dogs screened for the potentially fatal condition.
“These figures are quite startling and I think if we look more closely, we will find an awful lot more cases of heartworm,” he said.
“There hasn’t been much heartworm around for a while and I think we have lulled into a false sense of security with preventing the condition.
“We are about to launch a Pets and Vets survey across all our practices in the region including Karratha, Roebourne, South Hedland Newman, Tom Price and Exmouth.”
Dr Fenny encouraged all dog owners to get their pets screened at their nearest vet clinic.
Heartworm disease is a serious condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and right side of the heart.
In the early stages of heartworm infections, there may be no outward signs of disease, however heartworm has potential to cause heart failure and death.
Signs of heartworm include a dry chronic cough, lethargy, fainting, breathing problemsand swelling of the abdomen.
Dr Fenny said heartworm was spread by mosquitos and a dog didn’t have to be in contact with other animals to develop the lifethreatening disease.
“When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it sucks up the blood and early-stage larvae, so when it bites another dog, the mosquito larvae are passed on,” he said.
“The larvae migrate through the bloodstream to the heart and adjacent blood vessels of the lungs, where they grow into adult worms, which can grow up to 30cm in length, blocking the arteries leading to lungs and heart.
“Eventually, the worms clog up the heart and cause long-term heart conditions and potential death.” Dr Fenny said heartworm could be prevented with a annual injection of Proheart, which kills off heartworm larvae in a canine’s bloodstream.
“We’re advising people to get their dog tested and start off with preventative measures as soon as they get a dog,” he said.
“Puppies should receive a course of three vaccinations at three, six and 15 months of age.
“All adult dogs then need annual injections to keep them protected from the disease.
Dr Fenny said any dog displaying symptoms of heartworm needed to be taken to the nearest vet clinic to receive treatment.
“We are offering half-price heart worm tests until end of October,” he said.
For further information, visit http://petsandvetswa.com.au or phone 9185 1600.
Adult heartworm can grow up to 30cm in length, blocking the arteries leading to the lungs and infesting the heart.