ABILENE, Texas - Mosquitoes have been out in full force with the recent rains. One in Taylor County even tested positive for West Nile virus. Many forget that mosquitoes prey on our four-legged friends too.
The diseases mosquitoes carry can be deadly for pets. Dogs can easily contract heartworm disease. According to the American Heartworm Society, "It develops when a dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying microscopic heartworm larvae of a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. The larvae penetrate the skin and migrate to a dog's bloodstream. Adult heartworms can grow to 12 inches and make their home in the right side of the heart and pulmonary arteries, often causing lung disease and heart failure."
"Anytime i see an increase in mosquito population, I'm thinking, ok, in about a year I'm gonna start seeing a bunch of heartworm showing up," said Dr. Allen Bolt with the Animal Health and Medical Center in Abilene. It takes 5 to 7 months for symptoms like lethargy and coughing to show up.
Bolt said dogs can be sprayed with mosquito repellant for temporary protection, but many are sensitive to products containing DEET, so look for a natural brand.
"You can use a little repellant on them but it's just like if you put it in yourself you're still gonna get a mosquito bite every now and then if you're out in them," said Bolt.
Heartworm is not as prevalent in cats, but if they do contract it, even one worm can make them extremely sick.
"It's not a big issue but with the mosquito load that we've got now it may become an issue," said Bolt.
Bolt said preventative heart worm medications are vital, especially this time of year. There are several different brands at different price points.
If your dog or cat isn't already on heartworm medication, a vet can test them and get them a prescription. Medication must be given on a timely schedule, on the same day each month, to ensure protection.
Bolt said West Nile is rare in cats and dogs, but for horses, it's a real threat.
Horses need to be vaccinated twice the first year and once every year after that.
Scott and Sherry Odom said they always make sure to keep their horses protected through mosquito season.
"We've vaccinated every year since they've come out with the vaccine," said Scott Odom.
"They're very much our family, we get very attached to them so we try to vaccinate and take care of them just like we would our own children," said Sherry Odom.
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