LMU vets to study canine heartworm in region

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2018

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Dr. Charles Faulkner, associate professor of parasitology at Lincoln Memorial University-College of Veterinary Medicine (LMU-CVM) is working with his students to conduct a study on the occurrence of the canine heartworm infection in pet dogs living in Cumberland Gap and Harrogate, Tennessee. Student researchers will be going “door to door” visiting pet owners to gather information and do heartworm screenings free of charge to participants in the research project.

“The canine heartworm is a parasite that infects dogs throughout the United States and can be a serious cause of heart disease in dogs,” Faulkner said. “Not to mention it can cause significant emotional heartbreak and economic hardship for pet owners that seek veterinary treatment for their household companions.”

Faulkner and his students hope to identify how common the canine heartworm is in pet dogs and mosquito populations so they can predict the risk of dogs becoming infected when they are not protected with the monthly preventive medications available from local veterinarians.

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The study consists of two parts. First, student researchers will visit pet owners within the community to obtain information about the use of heartworm preventive medications and collect blood samples from their pet dogs to test for infection with the parasite. During the second part of the study, the student researchers are collecting mosquitos from different locations in Cumberland Gap and Harrogate with special traps baited with dry ice.

“Mosquitos are attracted to dogs and people by the CO2 they exhale, so it is an effective method for bringing them into the traps.” Faulkner said.

The collected mosquitos will be tested for heartworm DNA in the laboratory at LMU. Mosquitos are an important link in the parasite lifecycle. Mosquitoes become infected with the canine heartworm parasite after biting an infected dog. Once infected, the mosquito then passes the canine heartworm parasite from the infected dog to an uninfected dog through its bite.

The information gathered in this study can be useful for pet owners because the cost of the monthly preventive medication is approximately 12 percent of the total cost of treating heartworm disease.

To find our more the research and how to participate, email Faulkner at charles.faulkner@LMUnet.edu.