Two Hampton Roads cities rank in top 5 U.S. cities for increase in heartworms

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.— Two cities in Hampton Roads rank in the top 5 cities in the country for increased positive heartworm tests, according to a newly released report.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council ranked Newport News as third and Hampton as the fourth city in the country with the highest percent increase in positive heartworm tests within the last 30-45 days.

A simple mosquito bite is all it takes to infect a dog or cat with heartworm disease.

Dr. Suzanne Schindler is a veterinarian at the Peninsula SPCA. She says this time of year makes for the perfect environment for pets to get heartworms and says the symptoms aren’t always noticeable.

“These worms can dislodge from where they are and actually lead to clogging arteries.”

Dr. Schindler says the results can be deadly.

The report states warmer climates, with lakes and rivers near homes, tend to see more mosquitoes that transmit the parasite.

Related: Check yourself, your children and your pets early and often for ticks

“Yes, we do see an increase when it’s a little bit warmer, but I have seen cases during the winter,” says Dr. Schindler.

Doctors recommend keeping pets on monthly preventative drugs year-round, and testing a pet twice a year if they are not on medication.

Dr. Schindler says it’s cheaper to buy preventative medicine than treat the disease after an animal is infected.

“Treatment can be expensive, and it also can potentially cause them to succumb to the disease… treatment is not without risks,” she says.

Dr. Schindler says pet owners should always get their heartworm medicine from a vet because some of the over-the-counter products aren’t as effective or don’t carry a guarantee.

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