Protecting Mans Best Friend

June 16, 2005--Posted at 6:00 PM CST

JONESBORO- Our pets become part of our families. Just as we try to prevent our children from getting sick, most people do the same for their pets. But sometimes we may be lax in preventative health measures for our pets and the results can be fatal.

As your summer gets into full swing, you pets often times get put to the back burner. But beware; summer is the worst time for canines to become infected with their number one killer, heart worms.

Dr. Rodney Vaughn says, "It's actually a little parasite that lives is the heart, in the right side of the heart inside the pulmonary vessels."

Doctor Vaughn is talking about heart worms, a preventable parasite that afflicts one in ten dogs. Heart worms grow inside the cavity of the heart, reproducing quickly, and growing in upwards of six inches long.

Vaughn said, "A heart worm test checks for an antigen or a protein that is on the surface of the heart worm. It doesn't really tell you how many they have but it can be anywhere from ten to fifteen or more."

Doctor Vaughn emphasized that this problem is completely preventable. Monthly heart worm medication keeps the parasite from encompassing the body. Not only could your dog be a victim, but so could your cat.

"Cats are also sensitive to heart worms. It is much less common. There is a heart worm test for cats and there is prevention for cats," Vaughn says.

Vaughn says that keeping your pet on medication is the best preventable method. And because the weather is not always predictable, mosquitos can reappear even after the summer months.

Vaughn says, "People will take their dog off of heart worm medication in the winter because your not going to have mosquitos. But we can have a few warm days in December and January and we will have mosquitos out."

If your pet becomes infected, you will notice some signs that begin with coughing, then will lead to restlessness and then possible fainting spells. This disease can be treated with a series of two shots and can cost anywhere from $400 to $1200. Preventing the disease is much easier than treating it.