Dear Doctor – Reducing heartworm risk

Letter to Tufts Veterinarians


Q I’ve seen advice for reducing mosquitoes on your property to help dogs avoid the heartworm disease that the insects transmit, but is that really necessary if you already give your dog preventative heartworm medicine?
Gary Jacob
Champaign, illinois

Dear Mr. Jacob,
A No doubt the most important thing you can do is give your dog heartworm medicine exactly as prescribed by your pet’s veterinarian, most often on a monthly basis. Heartworms can damage the heart muscle, the lungs, and the arteries that connect them, and these preventive drugs are very effective in killing the worms before they mature and cause harm. But since heartworms are carried by mosquitoes that may bite and infect dogs, it’s certainly not a bad idea to add a double dose of protection by making it difficult for mosquitoes to thrive on your property, even during months that may seem too cold for that to be possible.

To that end, says the American Mosquito Control Association in association with the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, don’t allow for any standing water, which is where mosquitoes breed. That means getting rid of water-holding containers, like old tires, tin cans, buckets, drums, and bottles that may have accumulated in your yard. Also, cover trash containers to keep out rainwater, and keep drains, ditches, and culverts free of weeds and trash so water drains properly. In addition, change the water in birdbaths and drop trays under plant pots at least once weekly, and repair leaky pipes and dripping outside faucets. Finally, keep your grass cut short and shrubbery around the house well trimmed so that adult mosquitoes will not hide in those places.


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