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Heartworm, also known as Dirofilaria immitis, is a parasitic roundworm that certainly has the potential to kill your dog (and sometimes cat or ferret). Most vets will assure you that monthly heartworm preventatives must be applied all year round, regardless of your location. The situation has little changed since 1998, when David H. Knight, DVM and James B. Lok, PhD published their paper "Seasonality of Heartworm Infection and Implications for Chemoprophylaxis." As they put it:

Dog owners need little encouragement to be convinced of the merits of prevention and very sensibly have become averse to risking a disease that can be so easily avoided. There is certainly great economy in addition to considerable peace-of-mind to be gained from this approach. There is also a tremendous financial incentive to veterinarians to promote heartworm chemoprophylaxis because they control distribution of these excellent products in a market that is already large but not yet saturated. Unfortunately, preoccupation with worse case scenarios imparted by the profession to our clients and what could be perceived as an obvious economic self interest for veterinarians to promote chemoprophylaxis has encouraged an insidious overuse of a good thing. The well-intentioned promotion of heartworm awareness and prevention may overshadow the fact that in the temperate latitudes, heartworm transmission is seasonal and chemoprophylaxis is not necessary on a continual basis.

Needless to say, the paper has not gained much popularity in the veterinary industry. This app, however, uses the method described by the authors to estimate the span of the heartworm season in your area. It will help you make an informed decision about when preventative medication is really necessary.

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