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Pets

(BPT) - The dark, cold days of winter are nearly behind us, and many people are looking forward to warmer weather and outdoor activities. Dogs also appreciate their time in the sun. So, it's important to keep in mind what you need to do to make sure your dog is ready to enjoy summer activities.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provides important summertime pet care tips, including:

Prepare

* Provide adequate water and shade

* Never leave your dog in the car

* Take walks and play outside during cooler hours of the day

* Avoid walking on hot pavement that can hurt your dog's paws

* Provide regular flea and tick protection

And, if your dog isn't on a regular schedule of heartworm preventive, now is a good time to start. Many people don't realize that while mosquito bites are usually a minor irritation for most people, for dogs, just one mosquito bite can be life-threatening. This is because mosquitoes carry heartworm. Heartworm disease may exhibit few symptoms. When diagnosed, it is difficult and expensive to treat and, if not caught in time, can be fatal.

If you don't live in an area with a heavy concentration of mosquitoes, or if your dog doesn't spend a lot of time outside, you may think that your dog is not at risk. According to the American Heartworm Society (AHS), "Heartworm disease is spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas all contribute to the spread of heartworm disease." The AHS recommends year-round protection because it is "an easy thing to do and is much less expensive than treating serious, sometimes deadly, heartworm disease." Leading veterinary organizations including the Companion Animal Parasite Council, the American Animal Hospital Association and the AVMA also support year-round protection.

For many people, however, remembering that monthly heartworm pill is easier said than done. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine agreed to revisions under which ProHeart 6, a six-month injectable heartworm preventive, may be administered. The changes were made based on a safety study encompassing 4 1/2 years' worth of data that demonstrated that predictable safety and efficacy remained consistent as use of the injection increased. This data shows that ProHeart 6 is safe and effective for the prevention of canine heartworm disease for six full months in dogs age 6 months and older.

"Monthly heartworm medications are effective, if they are given on the proper schedule," says John Santilli of Mayfair Animal Hospital in Cary, N.C. "Unfortunately, many of my clients have busy lives, and, while they have the best of intentions, doses are missed. Heartworm disease is a serious problem here in North Carolina. That's one reason I rely on the six-month, injectable heartworm preventive. Not only does it give my clients the peace of mind that their dogs are protected against heartworm disease, the biannual visits allow me to make sure that those dogs are healthy in other respects, too. We can check for any dental issues, examine for tumors and help keep our canine patients in good shape for summer activities - and all year round."

As with any medication, it's critical to consult with your dog's veterinarian to see if an injectable heartworm preventive is a good option to provide six months of protection to your dog and six months of peace of mind for you.

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