The American Heartworm Society defines Heartworm Disease as “a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats, and other species of mammals, including wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions and (in rare instances) humans.”
Heartworm is transmissible via mosquitoes. Adult Female Heartworms release their young into the bloodstream of an infected animal and then are spread via mosquitoes that contract the young heartworm parasites and pass them along into an animal’s blood stream during the mosquito’s feeding process. Young Heartworm parasites cannot reach maturity without first passing through a mosquito. Heartworms take approximately six months to fully mature into adult worms.
In most areas of the country, heartworm is a common problem that inhabits local wildlife populations, helping spread the parasite infection via mosquitoes into the pet population. However, Kodiak Island has special qualities that helps prevent the spread of heartworm in our local community.
The American Heartworm Society reports that laboratory studies conclude heartworm larvae maturation ceases below 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Kodiak’s average air temperature falls below that level even during summertime months, thus prohibiting the survival of heartworm larvae if contracted by the local mosquito population.
It is not considered necessary for pets originating from Kodiak or for pets whom have never traveled off island to be tested for heartworm, nor receive monthly treatments for heartworm prevention.
Pets moving to Kodiak who have tested negative for heartworm within 12 months prior to arrival and that have received the appropriate monthly doses of heartworm preventatives should continue with 2 to 3 more doses after arrival as a safety precaution. Heartworm preventatives may then be discontinued for the duration of the pet’s stay on Kodiak Island.
If your pet has not been tested for heartworm within 12 months prior to arrival, or has not been on routine monthly heartworm preventatives within 12 months prior to arrival, it is highly recommended that your pet be tested for heartworm exposure as soon as possible.
It is important to note that if you plan to travel with your pet off-island, you should always consult with a veterinarian in the area of your final destination to determine the need for heartworm prevention. The Kodiak Veterinary Clinic will be happy to supply you with the heartworm prevention you need at the time of your health certificate appointment prior to travel. Once your pet has been potentially exposed to a heartworm area, heartworm preventatives cannot be prescribed without a physical examination and proper testing by a local veterinarian.