Local vet warns of rise in tick-borne diseases, heartworm in pets

Rise in pet diseases in Horry County

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - With the warmer weather comes the pesky insects, and that means keeping a close eye on your furry friends when it comes to parasite prevention. Local veterinarians say diseases in pets have increased over the last several years. They say the mild climate in Horry County is the perfect breeding ground for ticks, fleas, mosquitos and other parasites that can potentially harm pets.

Dr. Isabelle Ying with Myrtle Beach Animal Hospital says she’s seen an influx of Lyme disease and heartworm cases recently, and is predicting even more cases to come in the warmer months. Over the past seven years in Horry County, The Companion Animal Parasite Council shows an increase in heartworm disease by 50 percent and Lyme disease doubling over the past few years. Lyme disease is a bacteria that’s spread by ticks, specifically the black legged tick, also known as the deer tick. Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the heart and lung of infected animals caused by a bite of an infected mosquito. Both diseases, if left untreated, can lead to serious health risks. Dr. Ying says oftentimes symptoms go unnoticed, which is why she says prevention is key in terms of your pet’s health and your wallet.

“Symptoms can vary from just overall lethargy, to your pets may be asymptomatic until all of a sudden they get a flare up. It just really depends," said Dr. Ying.

Dr. Ying also recommends annual tests on top of keeping your pets on preventatives because these diseases are something you can prevent rather than having to manage afterwards. There are a few options for preventatives like chew tablets, topicals, collars and even vaccines.

Doctors also say that usually when you notice a trend in pets, it’s a good indicator for what we can potentially be exposed to as humans.

So as we see an increase in tick-borne diseases - specifically Lyme disease - dogs can be a great sentinel or predictive indicator for Lyme disease in this area as well," said Dr. Ying.

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