Pet Summer Hiking Series – Part Five

Heartworm…Prevening this Parasite is Powerful! 

Heartworm is here.  This disease isn’t prevalent yet, but it does exist in the Reno-Tahoe area.  It actually affects dogs and cats in every state.


If you are not familiar with Dirofilaria immitis, Heartworm, it’s a parasite commonly found in dogs and cats. It is in fact, a worm that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes.  Adult worms that develop in the right ventricle of the heart, cause heart failure and eventually death.  Crazy thing…it can be prevented.


Heartworm is transmitted by a mosquito.  The larvae (microfilaria) live in the infected mosquito‘s saliva and are injected when they bite your dog or cat.  The larvae develop into adults that gather in the heart.  Once adult worms are present, without treatment prognosis is death.

Boomer HW
Boomer’s Heart Infected with Adult Heartworms

The best way to prevent Heartworm disease is keeping your pet on preventative year round. The mosquitoes in the Sierras can spread the disease.  They have even been found at Lake Tahoe in November. Yes November.  So, skipping winter months is no longer a viable option to fight this often fatal disease.IMG_4279

Performing a simple blood test in the hospital can check for the disease in as little as ten minutes.  Negative results mean you can start the preventative right away.  It’s as easy as giving a tasty beef chew once a month.  Positive results are a whole other story better left for another blog.  Treatment is necessary to save your pet and risks involved can be fatal as well.

As an active outdoor enthusiast, camping and hiking with my dogs is a must. My dogs are protected by Heartgard all year, since mosquitoes are unavoidable. Although there are products like K9 Advantix II that repel mosquitoes, there’s no guarantee.  And…mosquitoes not biting your dog are biting you.  Cases of Heartworm have been reported in humans as well.  West Nile Virus is another nasty disease spread by mosquitoes.

Bogart and a few dozen skeeters.


Tech Tips:

  • Get your dog tested for Heartworm disease annually.
  • If, you skip or miss a dose, be sure to re-test in 6 months.
  • Keep your dog on Heartworm preventative all year.
  • Symptoms may include, but are not always seen:
    • A mild persistent cough
    • lethargy
    • exercise intolerance
    • weight-loss
    • loss of appetite

The fact is, if there’s even a chance for infection and there’s a preventative…It’s in your power to ensure you pets’ well-being.

My Pet Summer Hiking Series is coming to an end.  Don’t miss my last post about Trail Emergencies.  If you missed Parts One, Two, Three or Four check them out here!

Ruby and Godiva on our way to Skunk Harbor, Lake Tahoe – Nevada.



Author: Aubrie Ricketts

Experienced Licensed Veterinary Technician, Executive Master of Business Administration - University of Nevada, Reno. I love marketing and promoting preventative medicine and pet wellness. I have a dedicated passion for veterinary anesthesia and pain management.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s