Kansas City sees increase in heartworm disease

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Every day, Walt Rieger spends some time with his beagle, Jake, at the Unleashed Dog Park.

“He's about 11,” Rieger said. “We got him about 4 years ago. All he does is wander around.” 

When it comes to keeping Jake healthy, heartworm prevention is on the top of Rieger’s list. 

“It’s just something you have to worry about,” Rieger said. 

The disease is caused by mosquitos.

Roughly 70 percent of dogs could pick it up if they don’t have heartworm prevention. 

“Heartworm disease as it progresses through the classes does become more serious and potentially life-threatening,” Plaza Animal Clinic owner Dr. Brad Twigg said.

Twigg stated he’s seen a slight increase; weather can be a factor to that. 

“Here in the Midwest, we get a little bit of everything, and so that's why it's best to get prevention all year round because if we have a mild winter versus a hard winter, it can definitely affect the mosquitos that are present in the area,” Twigg said. 

Veterinarians say the only way to guarantee prevention is getting products directly from your vet or your vet’s website because some other sites may sell expired products.

Twigg said it can take up to six months for heartworm tests to show up positive. 

“We can only test the adult female heartworms, and so if they get bit in June or July, we still can't detect them until December or January after the infection starts,” Twigg said. “Because the baby worms won't show up positive on the test until six months down the road.”

Veterinarians say it can take a few months to get rid of the heartworms after pets have them. 

“That's just terrifying,” pet owner Samantha Parks said. “Sometimes it can be harder to read dogs than you know yourself when you're in pain but you know sometimes dogs don't show it as much.”

Twigg said outward symptoms don’t really show in the early stages of heartworm disease, that’s why he’s urging pet owners to get their pets prevention year round.

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