Possible Heartworm Should Be Examined

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: I have recently read some information on heartworm disease and a product called Heartgard, and have become concerned since I have a 2-year old springer spaniel. I asked my vet about heartworm disease and he said there is no problem for dogs in Southern California. I bought my dog as a puppy from a breeder in Chino and have kept her current on her vaccinations and wormings. She seems to be healthy and is extremely active. Should I be worried about heart-worm disease? I am considering putting my dog on this Heartgard medication just in case. Is there any problem doing that?

Julie Edmundson, Tustin

A: Heartworm disease is an insidious condition in dogs caused by a parasite that develops into a worm that primarily lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of the lungs. The disease is spread by mosquitoes that are infected with a larvae form of the worm. The mosquito bites the dog, releasing the larvae to develop in the dog’s circulatory system.

Fortunately, Southern California does not have the mosquito populations that other areas of the United States have and, in past studies, has been shown not to have a significant heartworm situation. However, there is a growing concern that the disease may develop in this area as more dogs from out of state or other heartworm areas come into Southern California and start a reservoir of infected mosquitoes.

It would be wise to have your dog tested for heartworm disease by having your veterinarian take a blood sample. He could check for both the circulating larvae and for the antibody developed from infection by adults.

Heartgard medication is a product that is used as a preventive to heartworm infection and is given only once to treat the active disease. If your dog is infected, she must undergo a treatment program and then be tested to make sure there are no circulating larvae before being put on the preventive medication. I would suggest that you discuss this again with your veterinarian and ease your concerns.

Q: We are moving to North Carolina in the next 3 months and are taking our two dachshunds with us on the plane. I have been told that I need to get a health certificate in order to take the dogs. How long does this take and where do I need to go to get one for the dogs?

Mrs. Cordarro, Anaheim

A: A health certificate is a document that states your dogs are free of certain diseases and tests their current vaccinations, especially against rabies. It is generally required by airlines because they are interstate carriers and need it for their own liability. The certificate is valid for 30 days and can be supplied by any accredited veterinarian. It requires an examination and your vaccination records. I would allow 2 weeks time before departure, just in case. Contact your veterinarian for this.