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Video: Petsecure kept my family together

MAY 2012

In This Issue

Stay connected to Petsecure pet health insurance through our blog and other social media channels!

Heartworm Disease – What You Need to Know
By Dr. Colleen Skavinsky, Chief Veterinary Officer

Yes, heartworm disease in Canada is real. Yes, heartworm disease can kill your dog. Yes, cats can develop heartworm disease too. No, not all dogs and cats in Canada are at risk. Let’s talk about heartworm disease and how you and your veterinarian decide if your pet requires regular testing and prevention.

The Ontario Veterinary College published a paper in 2010 which showed that 564 dogs tested positive for heartworm in Canada. Over 75 percent (431 in total) of these dogs lived in Ontario. There are also pockets of heartworm disease in southern Manitoba, southern Quebec, and southern mainland British Columbia. This study showed the presence of heartworm infection in dogs increased by nearly 60% since the last study of its kind in 2002. Researchers speculate that one factor may be the adoption of heartworm-positive rescue dogs from the southern United States after Hurricane Katrina or through other rescue programs from American states where there is a higher prevalence of heartworm disease. Other studies suggest that cats may be infected at approximately 1/10 the rate of dogs in heartworm prevalent areas.

Let’s look at the life cycle of heartworms in the dog. Dogs become infected with heartworms through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes “suck up” microfilariae, microscopic larvae, when they bite and feed from dogs, coyotes, and foxes who already have contracted heartworm disease. The larvae mature in the salivary glands of the mosquitoes who then feed from an uninfected dog. The larvae are then transferred into the tissues of the new dog and go through a maturation process in the dog’s body. The larvae eventually become adult worms who travel through the lungs and bloodstream and end up in the pulmonary blood vessels and the heart. Once they arrive here, they can mate and produce thousands of the tiny microfilariae. It takes between 5 to 7 months for one female heartworm to mature and begin producing these tiny larvae. The microfilariae travel through the bloodstream where they are available for the next mosquito to come along and feed. Thus the cycle repeats itself.

The adult heartworms can grow to be 15 to 30 centimetres in length. Severely affected dogs may carry 30 to 100 worms within their hearts and lungs. The presence of these parasites over time can lead to lung and liver disease and heart failure. While the worms themselves don’t necessarily kill a dog, these conditions can certainly be fatal. Treatment often involves the killing of the adult worms with an arsenic-based compound which can result in severe complications. Prevention on the other hand is quite easy and with minimal adverse effects. Preventive medication is aimed at killing the microscopic larvae in the dog’s system before they have a chance to reach the heart and the lungs. Prevention may come in the form of a tablet, a chew treat, or a spot-on product that you apply over your dog’s shoulders and back. Normally these medications are prescribed on a monthly basis and are given during the summer months, according to a local area’s “mosquito season”.

The American Heartworm Society recommends annual testing and preventive medication for dogs that live in heartworm prevalent areas of the country. While we pet parents who routinely give our dogs heartworm medication may wonder why we need to re-test annually, there are a couple of very good reasons. Some studies suggest that 1 in 10 positive dogs may have been given a preventive in the year prior to having a positive test. While the medications themselves are very effective, some of us may forget to give the pill on time or may miss a month or two at the end of the mosquito season. Some dogs are quite wily and will appear to have swallowed their tablet but may spit it out in the backyard or behind the sofa. A dog who eats grass “just because she likes it” may accidentally vomit the pill in the backyard without your ever realizing it. These dogs may be unprotected for a whole month of heartworm-infecting mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes do not discriminate against small dogs and dogs who spend much of their time indoors. These dogs may be at risk for heartworm disease depending on where you live and will benefit from preventive medication. Your veterinarian will be able to offer you the specific statistics for heartworm prevalence in your area to help you determine if prevention is a good idea for your dog and how often your dog should be tested. Also remember that dogs who travel to the United States or areas of Canada with a higher prevalence for heartworm disease should be prescribed a preventive medication during travel and in the month afterward. These dogs will need to be re-tested 6 to 12 months after they return home.

Cats are not considered a natural reservoir host for heartworms, but we can still see the disease in this species. While the life cycle is similar, cats tend to develop infections with smaller numbers of worms and are as likely to develop breathing problems or an asthma-like condition as true heart failure. Cats most at risk are those who spend time outdoors at dusk and dawn. Heartworm testing is more complicated in feline patients but preventive medication is available. Please ask your veterinarian if your cat would benefit from a heartworm prevention program.

Dr. Colleen Skavinsky
Chief Veterinary Officer
Petsecure pet health insurance

 For information about pet health, visit www.petsecure.com.

Best Pet Story Contest!

We are still accepting Best Pet Stories! Submit your best pet story to us for a chance to win a $50 VISA gift card! It’s simple… email your best pet story to care@petsecure.com. The chances of winning will depend on the number of entries. Petsecure will post entries onto our Facebook page for everyone to see. And don’t forget to include a picture of your pet!

We Need More ‘Likes’ So Charities Can Get More Money

Last month we mentioned that until the end of May, for every new like on our Facebook page and new follower on Twitter, we will donate $1 to be divided between 8 charity organizations. Our ‘likes’ increased after our April eTails, however, we’re still looking for more! Bring on the likes for bigger donations! Based on responses through our Facebook page on ‘who’s your favourite pet-related charity’, the following 8 charities were chosen:

  • Cochrane & Area Humane Society
  • The Farley Foundation
  • Forever Home Cat Rescue
  • Nova Scotia SPCA
  • BCSPCA (Paws for a Cause)
  • Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada
  • Ontario Veterinary College Trust
  • Forgotten Ones Cat Rescue

We want to give these charities a big donation each, so check out our Facebook and Twitter pages and ‘like’ them!

Get a $20 Gift Card Just For ReFurring Your Friends!

Do you know a pet owner who might like Petsecure to help pay their veterinary bills? Help give your friend a lifetime of peace of mind for their pet or cat and we'll reward you both through our ReFur-A-Pet Program!  Learn more today

The Cat's Meow

"Kittens are born with their eyes shut. They open them in about six days, take a look around, then close them again for the better part of their lives.” "

- Stephen Baker

The Doggy Dish

"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole "

- Roger Caras

Get the Skinny on Overweight Pets

At a time when obesity is on the rise with people, it’s also on the rise for our furry loved ones. Overweight pets are an increasing health concern for pet parents across Canada, with 25-40% of dogs suffering from obesity. The problem can be metabolic, such as with hypothyroidism, but most often occurs in pets for the same reason it happens to people - improper diet and lack of sufficient exercise. When it comes to improper diet, the two most common causes are free-choice feeding and adding table scraps to commercial diets. We truly can “kill our pets with kindness”.

Overweight pets suffer more physical ailments and do not live as long as animals of recommended weight, reducing their quality of life. Some connections between having an overweight pet and disease are easy to realize. Joints can be over-burdened from carrying too much weight and develop arthritis, an inflammatory reaction that causes pain. Furthermore, the dog or cat can rupture a cruciate ligament in the knee from being overloaded. Overweight pets are more likely to develop a herniated disc in the spine which can cause a great deal of pain. Other health risks include heart and respiratory disease, diabetes, and liver disease, just to name a few.

Prevention is Key!

Overall, if your pet is overweight it can reduce their quality of life and shorten their lifespan. Keeping your pet healthy, on a well-balanced diet and physically active will ensure a long lasting life with your four-legged friend

Contact Us

Get in touch with our team today!
Call us at: 1-800-268-1169
Fax us at: 1-866-322-5246
E-mail: info@petsecure.com
Download claim forms here.

Customer Care Centre Hours:
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Fri. 7am - 8pm
Sat. 8am - 7pm
(Central Standard Time)

Coming up next month…
And the Winner is…

We are continuing our Best Pet Story contest until June! Find out who wins the $50 Gift Certificate for the Best Pet Story!.