As residents of Fort Bragg and the surrounding areas continue to recover from the aftermaths of Hurricanes Florence and Michael, dog owners need to be aware of the effects these weather systems could potentially have on their canine family members.

“Heartworms and displaced pets are the two biggest concerns at this time,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lebron, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Fort Bragg Veterinary Center.

Mosquitoes are primary carriers of the heartworm disease, and they thrive in bodies of standing water such as those recently created from the two storms.

“The mosquitoes are really bad now,” said Dr. Clint Nygaard, a veterinarian at the Fort Bragg Veterinary Center. “If a dog is bitten by a mosquito that is infected after biting another animal that has contracted the heartworm disease, six months later it will have adult heartworms due to the long incubation period.”

“Prevention is the best defense in protecting your pets,” said Lebron, a San Juan, Puerto Rico native. “If your pet tests negative for heartworms, that does not conclude they are clear.”

It takes approximately six months for the young larvae to develop into a mature adult heartworm and become traceable.

Nygaard and Lebron recommend having pets tested yearly and for them to take some form of heartworm preventive medication. The test consists of a blood draw sample, and results take just a few minutes.

Although diseases can bring life threatening conditions to family pets, imagine a dog or cat lost and helpless in the chaotic conditions brought to the area by major weather systems.

After a violent experience an animal may go through during flooding, the animal won’t always try to go back home, or may not be able to due to geological changes in the area, Nygaard said.

“We have seen numerous lost pets with no microchips implanted,” Lebron said. “Someone will rescue a potential displaced pet and bring it to the clinic only to scan and not be able to identify who the animal may belong to.”

Along with the microchip implant, Lebron recommends that pets wear a collar and a tag with owner’s contact information to expedite their return if lost.

Nygaard, the veterinarian, identified key preparations pet owners should consider before inclement weather which include: enough food and water for seven days, immunization records, a photo of your pets in case they become lost, and a list of pet friendly hotels or shelters in case of an evacuation.

Heartworm medication and additional readiness information can be obtained at the Fort Bragg Veterinary Clinic, or you can contact the clinic at (910) 396-9120 .