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I give my dog heartworm preventative all year, but my friend says her vet told her it's not necessary in the winter, after the first frost. What's the better plan?

We recommend heartworm prevention all year round. It protects the pet and your wallet.

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As we all know, Maryland weather is a bit wacky. We have mild winters and the mosquitoes don't always completely disappear. The preventative (example, Sentinel) does not protect your dog a month ahead; it works to kill the microfilariae (tiny larvae) that have infected your pet during the month since you last gave the dose of medication. For example, November can be cool and there are not many mosquitoes around, but that does not mean it is safe to stop giving monthly medicine; October was warm and mosquitoes were present.

If you stop the medication and find out later that your dog became infected with microfilariae in the preceding month and developed heartworm disease, you are looking at a hefty bill with a full-blown infection and a painful process for your dog to endure. Also keep in mind, putting an infected animal back on preventative without testing can put a dog in danger. You never know when the first mosquito is going to come out or when the last one will die.

This week's experts are Rae Wetherington and Dr. Meredith Brand, Eastern Animal Hospital. Send your questions to sun.unleashed@gmail.com.

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