Heartworm Disease and Protection

What is Heartworm Disease

Heartworm Disease and Protection starts with you. Heartworm Disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs. Mosquitos play an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. When a mosquito takes blood from an infected animal, it picks up baby worms, which develop and mature into larvae. Next, the infected mosquito bites another dog or cat, depositing the infected larvae onto the surface of the animal’s skin. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.

Protecting Your Pet

The consequences of heartworms can be life-threatening, which is why it’s so important to properly protect your pet. Fortunately, preventing heartworm disease is as easy as giving your pet a monthly preventive — the key is making sure you do it consistently.

In many regions of the United States, heartworms are seasonal when mosquitos are present, which can cause confusion on when to give preventative. Dr. Mike recommends most pet owners give year-round heartworm preventives as this takes the guesswork out of remembering to give the medication.

Heartworm Disease and Protection

Start with a Test

Before you begin a heartworm preventive, you should visit with us about whether your pet should have a heartworm test. The most common test used for detecting heartworms in dogs is a blood test. This test detects specific antigens (substances that create an immune response within the body) from adult heartworms.

Prevention Is the Best Medicine

Faithfully administering a heartworm preventive is essential for keeping your pet protected against heartworms. Many preventives will also protect your pet from other parasites like roundworms and hookworms. Keeping a record each month of when you give the preventive will help take the guesswork out of remembering when it is due.

Just Do It

The key to protecting your pet from heartworm disease is awareness. Heartworm disease is treatable in dogs but involves many steps and your pet may need to be hospitalized. For cats, there is no treatment so using medication to control the disease is often recommended.

Heartworms are preventable — you just need to remember to test annually and give preventives monthly. Call us to schedule an appointment to help you decide the best course of prevention. Make heartworm prevention a regular part of caring for your pet —  your furry companion will be glad you did.