Summer Pet Health Concerns: Heartworm, Lyme Disease and West Nile On Long Island

Pet owners should be aware that heartworm is on the rise on Long Island, and that our counties are considered a hotspot for Lyme Disease, which is caused by ticks bites, and West Nile Virus, ...

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Pet owners should be aware that heartworm is on the rise on Long Island, and that our counties are considered a hotspot for Lyme Disease, which is caused by ticks bites, and West Nile Virus, cause by Mosquitoe bites. With summer in full swing pets may be spending more time outside so owners need to understand how important it is to have their pets checked and treated for these deadly diseases.

Heartworm disease is a common preventable disease of dogs and cats that has been reported in all 50 states. Pets acquire this disease through an insect sting from a common mosquito. The infected mosquito injects a tiny larva into the animal, which, over approximately 6 months time develops into mature worms that live in your pet's heart. The worms, when left untreated, cause damage to the heart and eventually lead to congestive heart failure.

With the mosquito population on Long Island on the rise throughout summer months our pets and these pesky mosquitoes collide more often. To help promote awareness and education about this disease, the Long Island Veterinary Medical Association reminds pet owners that dogs and cats should be tested annually and be given preventative treatment year round.

"It's not just a matter of buying products like Heartguard on-line and giving it to your pet," says Dr, Nicole Paccione-Gerbe, "because we're seeing resistance to these drugs as well as complications arising with the unmonitored use of these products."

Heartworm infections are actually greater than 10 years ago, making annual testing critical for dogs, and now even cats, who should be tested at least once yearly for the disease and kept on preventative medication all year round.
Lyme not only primarily effects dogs, it can cause serious illness in people as well. There are three types of ticks commonly found on Long Island, dog tick, lone star tick and deer tick. Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the United States is caused by the pirochete bacteria which transmitted by the deer tick. In 60-80 percent of cases, a rash resembling a bull's eye or solid patch, about two inches in diameter, appears and expands around or near the site of the bite. And once a tick is done feeding on your pet, they can jump off and feed on you.
The early stage of Lyme disease in humans is usually marked by one or more of the following symptoms: chills and fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle and/or joint pain, and swollen glands. If Lyme disease is unrecognized or untreated in the early stage, more severe symptoms may occur. As the disease progresses, severe fatigue, a stiff aching neck, and tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or facial paralysis can occur.

You can prevent family pets from bringing ticks into your home by having your family pet checked by your veterinarian and using either tick medicine or a tick collar on them as as the doctor suggests.

It has also been recently reported that for the first time this year West Nile virus has been found in mosquitoes in nearby Staten Island. The Health Departments explain that horses are more susceptible to serious illness from West Nile than are dogs and cats, but these companion pets can occasionally get West Nile virus from mosquito bites.

While no human cases have yet been recorded this year, Health Department officials say they're increasing mosquito surveillance and larvae-control efforts in the affected area and throughout nearby counties including Nassau and Suffolk. Last year, three Nassau residents and three Suffolk residents died of West Nile disease.