San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Are Canine Heartworms A Problem in Central Valley?

Do you know if canine heartworms are a problem in the Central Valley?

I don’t know if I’m wasting my time and money on a monthly trip to the vet. No one I speak with seems to have heard of any heartworms here – but that’s relying on anecdotes.

Steve Risher

San José

One of our staffers recently had his dog delivered from the United States, and he too asked a similar question.

Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal condition of dogs, cats and other domestic and wild mammals. (Human infection is possible but extremely rare.)

The parasite Dirofilaria immitis is most often transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. The adult stage is found in the heart and major blood vessels of infected animals – and any dog, regardless of physical condition or age, is susceptible, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Tico Times met with respected San José veterinarian Oldemar Echandi to find out how high the risk is for dogs in Costa Rica and whether or not monthly trips to the vet are warranted.

Echandi explained that because heartworm is transferred by mosquitoes, it’s found mostly in warm, humid places where mosquitoes thrive. While the Central Valley certainly qualifies at times, Echandi explained that in most populated areas, mosquitoes are not a problem, and thus, neither is heartworm.

However, he advised, any dog that travels to coastal areas – particularly Puntarenas and Guanacaste – should take monthly pills as prophylaxis. In those areas, he said, heartworm is much more common.

He also added that any dog coming from an area of the United States where heartworm is commonly found, should take the pills as a precautionary measure for six months.

Dogs that were born here, and are not likely to leave the Central Valley, however, should be just fine, the vet said.


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