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2018 Is The Worst On Record For Lyme Disease And Heartworm- Here’s What To Do About It

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Both Lyme Disease and Heartworm Disease are being reported in record-breaking numbers. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is predicting that this summer may be the worse one yet. So what does this mean for pet parents? And what can we do to protect our fur-kids?

Learning about both diseases and how our pets can become infected is our first step. Even with tick and heartworm protection, our pets can be exposed.


Heartworm Disease 

According to Ernest Ward, DVM: “Heartworm disease or dirofilariasis is a serious and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis.

Adult heartworms are found in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels of infected dogs. Rarely, worms may be found in other parts of the circulatory system. The female worm is 6 – 14″ long (15 – 36cm) and 1/8″ wide (5mm). The male is about half the size of the female. One dog may have as many as 300 worms present when diagnosed.”

How Is It Spread

Heartworm is spread by mosquitos, not from dog to dog. That is why the rate of the disease increases during mosquito season. In many parts of the country, though, this is a year-round issue and not a seasonal one, and precautions should be taken year-round.



*It usually takes several years for dogs to show heartworm symptoms that can be clinically recognized. That is why heartworm tests and prevention are so important*

Heartworm Symptoms

  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Stamina
  • Exercise Intolerance

Signs of the disease are most visible after activity. Dogs may even become disoriented, some may faint. Also, upon exam, your veterinarian may observe abnormal lung and heart sounds.


Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is spread by ticks, particularly the black-legged tick or the deer tick. Typically, ticks can be found in bushes or grassy areas but cases are being reported in areas where ticks were not prevalent before. The tick lies in wait then attaches itself to a host. It then bites its host where it can transmit tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme Disease.



According to PetMD:

“Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world but only causes symptoms in 5-10% of affected dogs. It is caused by a spirochete (bacteria) species of the Borrelia burgdorferi group. When infection leads to disease in dogs, the dominant clinical feature is recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. There may also be a lack of appetite and depression. More serious complications include damage to the kidneys, and rarely, heart or nervous system disease.”


Lyme Disease Symptoms:

  • Stiffness and swelling in joints
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shifting leg lameness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

Lyme Disease can be diagnosed with a blood test. It is treated with antibiotics as an outpatient if it isn’t a severe case. Your veterinarian can also offer a vaccine for prevention.


REMEMBER: Lyme Disease and Heartworm Prevention and Protection starts with YOU!


Heartworm Prevention and Protection

Your dog should receive a monthly dose of heartworm prevention. Make sure you stay on top of your dog’s next dose by marking your calendar. Your veterinarian, even with monthly protection, may recommend a yearly heartworm test.

You can also prevent heartworm by staying away from mosquito-infested areas. Mosquitos live in warm, damp areas and are most active in warmer months. They thrive in stagnant water on hot days and are most active at dusk.


Laughlin Air Force Base


Lyme Disease Prevention and Protection

Your dog should receive flea and tick prevention medication. The medication can come in pill form or topical form. Some pet parents still prefer flea and tick collars. Ask your veterinarian which is your best option. Keep a record of when your dog received his medication and mark your calendar when he’s due for his next dose.

Ticks live in grassy, wooded areas and are most active during spring and summer months. If your dog loves the outdoors, diligently check him for ticks EVEN with tick prevention medication on. Nothing is 100%.


2018 Heartworm Forecast

Source: CAPC

The 2018 forecast of heartworm disease, according to the CAPC:

  • The Lower Mississippi Valley, an area where heartworm is rampant, is again forecasted to be more active than normal in 2018.
  • Locations in the Northern tier states — from Washington State to Vermont — are forecasted to see more cases in 2018.
  • North and South Carolina coastal areas: you are also predicted to see above normal activity.
  • The Pacific Coast states west of the Sierras are expected to see above normal prevalence.
  • Congratulations Alpena, Michigan: you are virtually the only area in the country forecasted to see below normal activity in 2018.

“The increase in heartworm activity supports CAPC’s recommendation that all dogs be given heartworm preventatives year-round, and tested annually for both heartworm antigens and microfilariae.”


2018 Lyme Disease Forecast

Source: CAPC

The 2018 forecast of Lyme Disease according to the CAPC:

  • Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, West Virginia, and the Appalachian region in Virginia: prepare for an active year.
  • Northwestern Wisconsin and Northern Minnesota are expected to see much higher than normal activity in 2018.
  • Washington DC to Philadelphia, PA and eastward (including the Delmarva area) and the Boston/Cape Cod area: congratulations, you are expected to see a little relief this year.




Heartworm: Warm, damp weather has caused mosquitos to thrive in more areas. 2018 is predicted to be ideal weather conditions for mosquitos to breed, even more so than the summer before.

Warm summers have allowed mosquitoes in the U.S. to expand their territory, bringing heartworm disease to new areas. With another warm and damp summer predicted for 2018, the pattern is expected to continue.

Lyme Disease: The disease correlates to the migratory pattern of white-tailed deer and certain birds, who are the most common carriers of the ticks that transmit the disease. These ticks pose the greatest threat of infection in the warmer months as they grow from the nymph stage to adulthood.

Ramstein Air Base

What You Can Do


Your pet should be checked by your veterinarian annually for the diseased, even with proper heartworm prevention.

If your dog shows any signs or symptoms, tell your veterinarian immediately. Heartworm is very treatable. In fact, current drugs on the market are 95% effective in curing the disease in early stages.

Lyme Disease:

  • Your pet should be checked after being outside, even with flea and tick prevention on
  • Always check for ticks on your dog’s feet, by his mouth, ears, eyes, and tail
  • Use tweezers to remove any ticks completely, making sure you get the head out
  • Keep your dog up-to-date on flea and tick medication
  • Mow your lawn and trim back bushes to eliminate tick hiding spots
  • Consider looking into Lyme vaccines


The safety and continued good health of your pet starts with you!

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