Protect your pet dog from filaria

Filaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, which we have plenty on Okinawa.

In Okinawa, every pet needs regular medication whole year around to prevent filarial disease. It can be either in the form of a once a year shot or an oral dosage taken once a month.

Filaria is a parasite that lives inside the dog’s heart, and is transferred by mosquitoes. Once that parasite grows to adult, it will take a shape of a worm, and cause heart, liver, kidney and other very critical diseases.

Filaria, often called ‘heartworms’ live in the dog’s heart, and can cause death.

Many may think this parasite is common only in dogs, but it’s also possible for cats to catch it. The difference is that, in case of a cat, the amount of parasites does not increase as much as in the dogs, and it rarely leads to a critical condition. Although the count of this parasite may be low in cats, in rare cases it may take a turn for the worse and result in sudden death.

Filaria can infect most canines, cats, humans and 16 other animals. In the case a human or other animals become infected, there normally are no symptoms, but in rare cases there might be bloody phlegm, chest pain or breathing problems.

Filaria is transmitted when a mosquito bites a dog carrying the disease, and becomes infected. The micro-filaria inside the mosquito grows to be an infective filaria larva. Without this process the micro-filaria will die before it even becomes an adult. But once this process has been completed, and the mosquito bites another dog, the filaria larva is transmitted, and continues to grow and heads straight into the dogs’ heart. This becomes the last place the filaria will ever live in, and where they continue to lay eggs. The eggs are very small and flow in the blood stream waiting to be sucked in by another mosquito.

Especially when living in an area where there are a lot of mosquitoes, the infection rate may differ, but generally going one summer without the filaria prevention shot, 30-40% of dogs will catch the disease. Three summers without the shot becomes 90-100%. Since Okinawa is fairly warm all year round, the number of mosquitoes is high and so is the infection rate. Okinawa is the region in Japan with the highest possibility to catch filaria.

Symptoms when catching the disease are coughing as if there is something stuck in the dog’s throat, breathing becomes difficult and it will stop wanting to go for walks, has blood in urine, loses appetite and, in the worst case, dies. If you normally have your pet outdoors, please be extra careful. And if you have found any of these symptoms with your pet, visit your vet as soon as possible.

By properly giving your pet the needed shots, you can protect it. Until now, most prevention medicine was given in monthly dosages, but since 2012, yearly shots have become available making it easier for the pet and the owner.

Please protect your pet against filaria, if not, who will?