Dog own­ers warned of heart­worm spike

Pilbara News - - News - Court­ney Fowler

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://pet­sand­ or phone 9185 1600.

Pic­ture: Rick Fenny

Adult heart­worm can grow up to 30cm in length, block­ing the ar­ter­ies lead­ing to the lungs and in­fest­ing the heart.

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