(KFSM) -- Pets could be at a greater risk this summer for getting a common but deadly disease and one mosquito bite is all it takes for a dog to become infected.
According to the American Heartworm Society, it is estimated that heartworms are found in one million dogs in the United States every year.
Heartworm disease is caused by worms that live in the heart and lungs of an infected pet, and it can lead to a series of problems.
“They have cardio vascular problems sort of like congestive heart failure,” Fort Smith veterinarian Jon Remer said. “They have fluid in their lungs which causes coughing.”
Remer said because of the mild winter and high humidity this year there are more mosquitoes, which means the risk is higher than usual. He said an unprotected pet has a 60 percent chance of getting the disease.
“If you have three dogs outside, and they’re not on a preventative, two out of the three, statistically, will probably come down with heartworms,” Remer said.
The Sebastian County Humane Society found more than 10 dogs with heartworms in the month of May.
Remer said preventing the disease is much easier than trying to cure it because he said the cure can actually be more dangerous.
“It could be potentially lethal when you give it to the dogs,” Remer said. “It’s basically, you’re trying to give the amount of poison to kill the heartworms, but not quite enough poison to kill the dog.”
There are many different preventative treatments including chewables, topical medicines or shots, but even with a preventative, Remer recommends getting your pet tested annually.
Remer added that cats are at risk too and there is no cure for them; prevention is the only way to keep cats safe from heartworms.