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Warm weather puts pets at risk for deadly disease

Benny caught heart worm in the warm El Paso weather.{ }

Eating outdoors and soaking up the sun may be fun for your pets but that warm weather is helping mosquitoes stick around much longer to spread a deadly disease.

“If there are mosquitoes there's a possibility for heartworm there,” Dr. Orlando Garza said.

Garza owns East El Paso Animal Hospital. He said this year there have been more cases of heartworm at his clinic.

“That worm is pretty much a silent killer, because it causes permanent, irreversible damage in these dogs' hearts,” Garza said.

Andrew Jara has four dogs; three have been diagnosed with heartworm.

“When they initially told us, the first thought was that we forgot to give them the shot or it had lapsed and we just didn't realize,” Jara said.

None of Jara’s dogs had missed their meds.

Benny was the first dog diagnosed.

“The only thing is one time we took him for a walk he sat down faster than normal,” Jara said.

Heartworm symptoms can include exercise intolerance, chronic coughing and fainting.

Garza recommends getting dogs blood tested and using regular treatment.

“There's a once-a-month topical medication we can put them on, and there's a new six-month shot we can give these guys,” Garza said.

Benny has already begun treatment and has had to stay inside because of it.

As Jara prepares to medicate the other two dogs he has one piece of advice.

“Just get them checked, especially if you see a bunch of mosquitoes around them, and stay on top of it,” Jara said.

Heartworm symptoms don't appear until the terminal stages of the disease. That's why it's better to test earlier rather than later.

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