I recently attended a veterinary conference in Melbourne. One of the things that I found most interesting was a talk from the president of the American Heartworm Society. Although based in America, Dr Robert Stannard had some valuable insights into the heartworm situation in Australia.
Just to remind you … Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasite that is spread by mosquitoes between dogs where the parasite grows into foot long worms which live in the major vessels of the heart. Although usually affecting dogs it can also cause serious disease or sudden death in cats, ferrets and other wild animals.
Often in Australia we think of heartworm as a disease more prevalent in tropical climates. I was surprised to learn that even in climates where the average low temp is negative fourteen degrees heartworm still circulates and affects animals. I was also surprised to discover that heartworm is classified as an emerging disease because of its rapid increase in prevalence and geographic range.
In Australia we have very little information on the prevalence of heartworm. Considering the seriousness of clinical heartworm disease we need to be vigilant and recommend protection for dogs, cats and ferrets. If you would like some information about how best to protect your pets please phone the team at Bendigo Animal Hospital on 5443 3322.
For further information on heartworm and the disease caused visit http://www.heartwormsociety.org/
Dr Lyndel Jeffery