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Why Heartworm Risk Spikes After Hurricanes

Mosquitoes bloom and therefore so does heartworm risk in dogs following a major tropical storm or hurricane.

Heartworm disease is a worm parasite that infects the heart and lungs of dogs.  The disease has devastating consequences for positive dogs as the worm damages heart and lungs tissues leaving the infected dog prone to clots, inflammatory lung and heart disease, and eventually heart failure.  The disease is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito when it feeds on a canine host.

Related: Heartworm Disease In Dogs & Cats

Mosquitoes reproduce in fresh or brackish, standing water and moist soil.  The female lays her eggs in water and wet or moist soil daily during her 4-8 week lifespan.  The eggs hatch into larvae, form into a pupa, then emerge into an adult mosquito in about 2 weeks.  This is why in the aftermath of mass flooding events like hurricanes mosquito blooms occur within a couple of weeks after the storm clears out.  With this massive increase in the overall numbers of the insect vector by which heartworm is spread, heartworm risk greatly increases in the months following tropical storms and hurricanes.

While heartworm is a year round risk in much of the southeastern United States and year round prevention is strongly advised, it is especially critical to administer timely heartworm prevention medication in the months following a major tropical storm or hurricane.  Luckily, heartworm prevention medications are both safe and affordable, with most products administered orally or topically on a monthly basis (with the exception ProHeart, which is administered by injection once every 6 months).

In the aftermath of bad storms people have to deal with loss of homes, businesses and tragically even loss of life.  It can be easy to forget to administer monthly heartworm prevention to your dog(s) with so much to cope with in the aftermath of a storm, but with potentially tragic health circumstances to dogs if forgotten, in addition to offering well wishes to all who experience major storms, this is also your friendly reminder to keep all of your dogs current on their heartworm medication.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality throughout a number of subjects and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

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