Heartworm and Lyme disease on the rise for dogs in Westchester County

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Cases of heartworm and Lyme disease have both risen in dogs in Westchester County over the past few years, officials say.

In 2016, 159 dogs were diagnosed with heartworm. A year later that number jumped to 204. Cases of Lyme disease from tick bites rose from 1,860 in 2016 to more than 2,000 in 2017.

If undetected, both diseases can become extremely dangerous and painful for cats and dogs.

Veterinarian Sonja Ghersini says there are several areas that pet owners should check.

"Ticks love the head and neck, " Ghersini says. "Sometimes they like the armpits and the groin area — nice, warm spots."

Ghersini said owners should comb through their pet’s fur each time they go outside to check for bug bites or ticks. When removing a tick, make sure to remove it’s whole head from the pet’s body, she says.

And avoid crushing the bug, because diseases can bleed into the animal’s system, she says.

To help avoid infections, Ghersini says owners should look into repellants like collars, ointments and ingestible medications.

"There are topical products that you can use. There are collars. There are ointments you can apply," Ghersini says. "There's even chewable tablets now that can repel some of these insects and at least decrease numbers."

Officials also warn owners to follow instructions from medical manufacturers and veterinarians.

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