The Number of Heartworm Cases Is Increasing – What You Need To Know


It’s the end of June and you know what that means – we’re right in the middle of peak heartworm season! But it’s important to remember that heartworm infection can occur during any month or season of the year. We’ve seen dogs test positive who were exposed to heartworms smack dab in the middle of winter and even missing one dose can put your dog at risk. This is why we recommend giving heartworm prevention year-round. But that’s not the only reason. Did you know that the number of heartworm infections across the country is growing? Heartworm infection per veterinary clinic in 2016 is almost 22% higher than in 2013 and we now see heartworm infections in all 50 states.

So what are the best ways to protect your pet from this costly and potentially deadly infection?

Give heartworm prevention consistently on the same day of every month. Our heartworm prevention of choice is Sentinel, a flavored tablet you give once a month. Not only does it protect your dog from heartworms, but it also protects against three different intestinal parasites – hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. Giving one tablet on the same day of every month is the single most important thing you can do to protect your dog from heartworm infection. It only takes ONE mosquito!

Remember to give heartworm prevention monthly. It may sound easy, but we know how difficult it can be to remember to give your pet it’s prevention when you have so many other things going on in your life! It happens to the best of us, so we recommend finding a reminder system that works best for you. Each dose of Sentinel comes with a sticker that can be placed on your calendar to remind you when it’s due, so if physical calendars or planners are your thing, this might work best for you. Some people prefer to use the calendar or reminder system on their phone, but you can also download apps specifically for reminders. Merck offers an app specifically for pet reminders that you can download for both Apple and Android devices.

Stay educated and up to date about heartworm infection prevalence in your area. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has an excellent website that tracks the number of heartworm positive cases in any given area. In 2017, Roanoke County had 28 positive cases and Roanoke City had 18, but surrounding locations like Bedford and Franklin County had even more – 45 cases and 43 cases respectively. It’s important to keep in mind that all heartworm positive dogs are not reported, so it’s likely that the number is actually higher than what’s shown. Regardless, it’s still a great resource and even has an option where you can sign up for e-mail updates on prevalence in your area. You can also use this tool to see how many cases of tick-borne diseases were seen in your area.

Remember that preventing costs significantly less than treating. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) places the average cost of preventative for dogs at $5-15 per month, and the cost of treating a dog with heartworm at $600-1,000. Based on findings from the 485,000 pets covered by their insurance in 2012, Veterinary Pet Insurance states that the average cost of preventing an external parasite—such as heartworms from mosquitos or Lyme disease from ticks—is $84.89 annually, which is significantly less than the cost of treating heartworms. With both prevention and treatment, costs typically increase with the weight of the dog. In addition, heartworm treatment is painful and dangerous for the dog, can take upwards of four or more months to complete (depending on the response), requires weeks of cage-rest, and is rough on the caretakers.

In conclusion, giving heartworm prevention year-round is the best way to prevent an infection and preventing an infection is much preferred to treating an infection. You could purchase a little over eight years worth of heartworm prevention for a large breed dog for the cost of treating one dog! If you have any questions about your dog’s heartworm prevention protocol, call our office at 540-776-0700.