Canine heartworm disease is caused by long worms that live in a dog’s heart and blood vessels. It can be fatal. And a warming climate could make this disease more common.

Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes. So it’s most common in warm, moist areas such as the southeastern United States.

But as the climate changes, other parts of the country may see more mosquitoes, and the mosquito season may get longer.

Ebel: “That could happen because of temperature. It could happen because of changes in rainfall.”

Greg Ebel is a professor at Colorado State University. He says temperature also affects mosquitoes’ ability to carry heartworm in the first place.

Ebel: “There’s a certain number of days that are required for that parasite to develop inside a mosquito, and if there aren’t enough days in the summer where the temperature exceeds a certain temperature, then the worm won’t develop in the mosquito and it can’t be transmitted.”

So as the climate warms, more mosquitoes are likely to be carriers. And it’s increasingly important to protect your dog. Many vets now recommend giving preventative medication year-round – even in some places where heartworm used to only be a summertime threat.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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