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Well, here we go again. It’s spring and just on its heels, will be summer. The rainy season gives way to hot days and warm evenings. The tall spring grasses are full of dampness – and thousands of pesky mosquitoes. For a bit of mosquito trivia, read on. The word “mosquito” means “little fly”. They have two wings that have scales and weigh just 1/25,000 of an ounce. Their head has sensors that detect heat and a long mouth that pierces the skin of its prey. Their legs are much longer than a fly. The mosquito lurks around mostly at dusk and is attracted to dark colors and mammal flesh. Only the females bite and therefore, transmit disease. They are responsible for more human deaths than any other living creature. One female can produce 10,000 microfilariae (baby worms) in a 24 hour period. Wow! There are 2700 different species of mosquitoes, 70 of which cause heartworm disease. The heartworm is a long slender, white spaghetti like parasite. The adult average length is 10-12 inches.

Canine heartworm develops when an infected mosquito bites your best friend, depositing larvae. These larvae make their way into the blood stream and take up residence in the heart. There, they mature into adults and reproduce. It takes 6-7 months to complete this cycle. The adult heartworm can live 5-7 years. Heartworm disease is most commonly found in dogs, but also has been found in cats, ferrets, sea lions, bears, foxes, wolves, coyotes, and, in very rare instances, humans.

If untreated, heartworm disease can cause major health problems. Symptoms include cough, weight loss, labored breathing, fatigue, and anemia. Diagnosis is made by a simple blood test. This blood test is positive if microfilariae are found in the blood sample. This indicates that adults are in the heart.

Treatment is normally safe and effective. The medication used kills mature and immature worms. A repeat test is required six months after treatment to confirm that all larvae have been eliminated. Preventing heartworm disease is quite simple if you keep in mind that the mosquito is the culprit. Starting your new pup on heartworm preventative at his first visit to your vet at 6-8 weeks of age is the most cost effective. No testing is required. If you have acquired an older new pal, the oral preventative can be purchased at your vet’s office, monthly, following a negative heartworm test. This medication is reasonably priced, safe, and easy to give.

Peak biting hours are dusk – dawn, so it makes good sense to keep your buddy in at night, but remember, indoor dogs are also at risk. It only takes one tiny mosquito slipping in through a loose screen to start the heartworm cycle.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. For damp places hard to get to, simply spray with a strong solution of apple cider vinegar or dish soap. Pam cooking spray works well also. My favorite deterrent is spritzing my dogs with diluted Skin-So-Soft oil. Planting basil or tansy will also help ward off theses beasts.

Feeding your pet a diet rich in wheat germ, yeast, garlic, or brown rice is also recommended. Advantix II, Freedom 45, or BioSpot 50 are all spot-ons that repel mosquitoes. Remember, the mosquito is not just annoying. She’s evil, wicked, mean, and nasty. Take her seriously – your best friend’s life is worth it.

Chic Miller 530-347-0544

Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary

4301 Lower Gas Point Road Cottonwood, CA 96022

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