Are annual heartworm and tick-borne screening tests absolutely necessary for my dog? I only take my dog for walks – is my dog really at risk for developing heartworm or tick-borne diseases? Are preventive treatments truly necessary?
These are among the most common questions that we are asked about testing for vector-borne diseases (infectious diseases transmitted by a living host, such as ticks and mosquitoes). The answer depends on the risk imposed on your animal based on the lifestyle that your dog leads. If your dog ever ventures outdoors, even for a 2 minute “toilet break”, testing for heartworm disease is absolutely necessary. Contrary to popular belief, heartworm positive mosquitoes have no territory bias – they are everywhere. The fact is, mosquitoes (the host that transmits heartworm disease) flourish in temperatures that stay consistently above 14 degrees and they easily transfer disease. Unfortunately, even though we have just begun testing, we have identified one positive case of heartworm disease.
We have also identified one positive case of Lyme disease, which is a disease transmitted by ticks. Like heartworm disease, tick-borne diseases, like Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme, may present a risk to your pet. It was previously thought that ticks only posed a risk to those animals travelling up north in heavily forested areas or down south in the warm, humid temperatures. Unfortunately, the most current research has proven that this is not the case. Incidents of tick-borne diseases, especially Lyme, are on the rise in both humans and canines. Check out this map (simply enter your postal code) that has tracked the incident rates of canine heartworm and tick-borne diseases.
In the news: York Region Public Health recently identified Lyme-positive ticks in Markham, Ontario, and issued a word of caution to the public to take reasonable steps to ensure that people and their pets are protected against these vector-borne diseases. The truth of the matter is, these diseases are a risk to our pets, even in Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Vaughan, Maple, Aurora, and anywhere in the GTA where forests exist. We pet owners need to be responsible and ensure we are protecting our pets through annual heartworm and tick-borne screening tests and treat our animals with monthly preventive treatments. Heartworm and tick prevention treatments (that are made by reputable manufacturers) are 100% effective in preventing disease when used exactly as directed.