Traveling, hiking, camping dogs may be at risk for heartworm |

Traveling, hiking, camping dogs may be at risk for heartworm

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

DILLON – Summer-like days beckon pet owners outdoors to enjoy the weather with their furry companions. However, the coming season may not be so friendly for domestic animals. In an effort to raise awareness about the risk of a summer problem, heartworm disease, the Alpine Veterinary Practice in Dillon is holding a special appointments campaign this week. Veterinarian Michelle Gross explained that heartworm is a summer disease spread by mosquitoes.

“The mosquito bites the dog and a parasite larvae is left in the pet’s bloodstream. It’s not a dog-to-dog kind of transmission.”Clinical signs of heartworm – such as coughing and trouble breathing – take time to become visible. And by the time it becomes apparent, Gross said, damage has already been done to the animal’s health. “We want to encourage people to check their animals,” she said. “It will help to detect the disease in advance of damages and also to prevent it.” The infection can be transmitted to both dogs and cats, though the more common host for the heartworm is the canine. During the campaign, which began Monday and ends Friday, the clinic will test pets through a variety of exams, such as X-rays and blood tests.

“If we detect any sign of the infection, the pet will be put on medication immediately,” Gross said. “We want to prevent the development to the disease phase.” If the disease is detected, medicine in the form of a pill must be given to the pet once a week, for six months. “After this, the weather is becoming cold again and we don’t need to worry anymore,” she said.

According to the veterinarian, Summit County’s high altitude is a natural obstacle to such a disease. But it doesn’t mean residents shouldn’t protect their pets.”The chances of contracting heartworm here are really low,” Gross said. “But we know people from all over the county really love traveling, camping and hiking during the summertime and that’s why the prevention is so important.” The vet clinic will give away prizes during the campaign to people who have their pets tested. Owners will get a chance to win a gift certificate for Gart Sports. Call the Alpine Veterinary Practice at (970) 468-2144 to schedule an appointment.

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