Mosquito Transmitted Diseases

Mosquito Transmitted Diseases

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about Zika virus, a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes and can make us ill. But did you know that mosquitoes carry diseases that can cause illness in our pets? Most pet owners are aware of diseases like rabies, feline leukemia, and canine kennel cough. These diseases are transmitted to our pets by contact with other cats, dogs or sometimes wildlife. Heartworm disease is an infection that can be transmitted to our dogs and cats by the bite of an infected mosquito. That means that our pets do not need to be around other animals to become infected with heartworm disease.

Luckily for pet owners, heartworm disease can be very easy to prevent. There is a variety of monthly medications that can be prescribed to your dog and cat, including flavored chewable tablets and topical medications.

Heartworm disease has been on the rise in Pennsylvania over the past few years. According to the American Heartworm Society, vet clinics in PA were reporting an average of 1-5 heartworm cases per year in 2010. Some clinics in northern PA were seeing even less than that. Then in 2013, at the next report, all surveyed clinics were reporting at least 1-5 cases per year, and many clinics reported 6-25 cases per year. This does not include the millions of pets who are never tested.

Heartworm disease affects dogs and cats in different ways. The heartworm larvae is injected into the bloodstream by the mosquito. In dogs, the larvae grow into adult worms in the heart and lung vessels, causing severe damage that may be permanent. There can be as many as 50 adult worms in the heart and lungs in an infected dog. Symptoms in dogs can range from a mild cough to full blown heart failure. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all! In cats, the worm burden tends to be much less but they are more sensitive to the larvae. The larvae can trigger a severe inflammatory reaction in the lungs similar to asthma. This inflammation can cause fatal respiratory disease.

Once infected, heartworm disease can be painful and expensive to treat. There is an injection for dogs that is given multiple times over the course of 1 month to kill the adult heartworms. There is no specific treatment for cats, only supportive care.

It is recommended to test for heartworm disease yearly, even if your dog is on year round prevention. This helps to ensure that the prevention is working. The test also checks for other diseases like Lyme disease. Reliable testing is not available for cats and they can be given heartworm preventive without testing. It is recommended to test your dog before starting the preventive. The preventives only kill the larvae that have been transmitted to your dog within the past 30 days. For example, if your dog was bitten by an infected mosquito on May 15th and you started your preventive on July 1st, your dog is NOT protected from heartworm disease. You should test again in 6-12 months to check for a mature infection. This is another advantage to giving heartworm prevention year round; the risk of missing an infection is much less. And with winters getting warmer, how do we know when the last mosquito left Pennsylvania? September? December? Or did they ever leave at all?

For more information about canine and feline heartworm disease, talk to your vet or visit the American Heartworm Society’s website at www.heartwormsociety.org.

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Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Bob  Sarsfield Photo
    Dr. Bob Sarsfield
    Veterinarian in Harrisburg, PA The chief medical officer and owner and has been with the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County since 1979. He started out working in the kennel and then attended Penn State University, which he graduated from in 1985. He received his DVM from Purdue University in 1989. His professional areas of interest include feline and canine medicine and surgery, ultrasound, and low level laser therapy. Contact the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County today and make an appointment ...
  • Dr. Heather  Balmer Photo
    Dr. Heather Balmer
    Dr. Heather Balmer (Zanes) is managing veterinarian and has been with the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County since 1999. Dr. Balmer first worked as a kennel assistant and then as a veterinary technician assistant. She received her undergraduate degree from Juniata College and her VMD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. Dr. Balmer was raised in Penbrook but currently lives with her husband, Matt, and grandmother in Hummelstown along with their four-legged ...
  • Dr. Kelly  Allen Photo
    Dr. Kelly Allen
    Dr. Kelly Allen joined the staff of the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County in 2011. She is a graduate of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, PA. She enjoys talking to clients about their furry family members. Dr. Allen has a keen interest in animal behavior and enjoys helping new dog and cat owners as they experience the joy (and sometimes frustrations) of introducing an animal into the family. She lives with her husband, Todd, and one ...
  • Dr. Jennifer  Fletcher Eckenrode Photo
    Dr. Jennifer Fletcher Eckenrode
    Dr. Jennifer Fletcher Eckenrode, CCRT joined the staff of the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County in 2011. She attended Colorado State University where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Microbiology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Originally from Boston, Dr. Fletcher grew up in Michigan. She has lived in California, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and even Perth, Australia. She lives in Mechanicsburg with her husband (also a veterinarian!) and daughter, their Heeler-Lab mix, Colbie, ...
  • Dr. Audrey  Zajac Photo
    Dr. Audrey Zajac
    Dr. Audrey Zajac joined the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County in July, 2013. She became interested in animals at a young age, spending her summers working on her grandparents’ dairy farm and riding horses at 12 years old. Dr. Zajac attended King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and headed off to Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, AL. After graduation, she returned to PA in 2009 where she worked with dogs, cats, and horses ...
  • Dr. Whitney  Wolfgang Photo
    Dr. Whitney Wolfgang
    Dr. Whitney Wolfgang joined the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County in June 2016. Growing up in Hummelstown, PA, Dr. Wolfgang always knew she wanted to work with animals in some capacity. Early in her college career, she fell in love with veterinary medicine. She graduated from Towson University in Maryland with a dual degree in Biology and Animal Behavior. She traveled to South Africa for a veterinary experience with local community outreach and wildlife veterinary medicine. Dr. Wolfgang earned ...
  • Dr. Lloyd V.  Reitz, Jr. Photo
    Dr. Lloyd V. Reitz, Jr.
    Dr. Lloyd V. Reitz, Jr. grew up on his family’s fourth-generation dairy farm in Shamokin, PA. In addition to caring for cows, he grew up with a wide variety animals, including horses, pigs, chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs, and even a couple of emus. Dr. Reitz pursued a degree in Biology from Messiah College, graduating in 2001. He then continued his education at Bucknell University, obtaining a Master’s of Science in Cellular Biology in 2004. After receiving his M.S., he moved to Richmond, VA, and ...
  • Dr. Jamie  Putt Photo
    Dr. Jamie Putt
    Dr. Jamie Putt is a native of Harrisburg, PA. She obtained her B.S. in Animal Bioscience from Pennsylvania State University in 2001. She attended veterinary school at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and obtained her D.V.M. in 2005. Dr. Putt is a current active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry, the mission of which is to educate the public about the importance of oral health in animals. Her special ...
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