Heartworms still a problem for pets in the Pacific NW

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HILLSBORO, Ore. – As summer gets closer, veterinarians say early spring is the time to get serious about heartworm prevention.

April is “Heartworm Awareness Month.”

The mosquito-borne parasite is an epidemic in the southeast where mosquitoes are out year-round, but health officials say a lot of pet owners don't realize the disease has gained a foothold in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Diane Healey of Hillsboro Veterinary Clinic says the only thing to keep levels of local heartworm cases down is through prevention.

That applies to both dog and cat owners, Dr. Healey said.

“Cats can get heartworm, too. Cats are actually much more difficult to diagnose, and they're more difficult to treat. In fact, often times you can't actually treat them, you wind up just doing your best to control symptoms for as long as possible,” said Dr. Healey.

The long worms fill the heart chambers and prevent blood flow, ultimately killing the animal.

Even if they are discovered in time, ridding pets of heartworms is a long process that can still end in death.

That's why Dr. Healey says prevention is key.

There are several kinds of heartworm prevention pills on the market, and you should select one for your pet based on their lifestyle, whether they go outside, and what areas they visit.

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