Any time a storm or other natural disaster leave behind a large amount of standing water, heart worm disease risk increases exponentially in dogs and cats. This is because the vector for transmission of the disease, the mosquito, breeds in especially high volume with all of that extra water, where it completes its life cycle from egg to adult mosquito.
Mosquitoes lay eggs in rows on the surface of the water called “rafts.” Rafts may contain as many as 200 eggs! Eggs hatch into larvae that feed on algae, plankton and fungi in the water. Larvae undergo 4 molting stages until they enter a pupa or cocoon phase. The adult mosquito them emerges from the cocoon and are ready for immediate feeding, in the case of the female mosquito, this would be a blood meal from a host animal.
Depending on the species of mosquito, air temperature, and humidity, the life cycle of the mosquito may be as short as 4 days or as long as two weeks. During the period following a large storm that leaves in its wake vast areas of standing water, ripe breeding grounds for mosquitoes, mosquito populations are very high often starting just a few days after the storm has passed and lasting for weeks. While heartworm prevention is always important, it is especially important to treat your pets with an effective veterinary grade heartworm preventive during the period of 4-8 weeks after a storm has passed.
Notice I stated “pets” and not just dogs in the heart worm risk conversation. While the dog is the definitive host for the heartworm making it far more common to see in comparison to cats, outdoor cats can contract heartworm as well, so please take the initiative to protect them to.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.