April is National Heartworm Prevention month. As a pet owner, you’ve undoubtedly heard about heartworm and how dangerous (and deadly) it can be to your beloved fur babies. In honor of Heartworm Prevention month, Lucky Dog VA has gathered some facts and myths about heartworm, as well as some helpful tips and reminders for preventing heartworm in your furry family members.
What is Heartworm? How is it transmitted?
Heartworm is a potentially deadly condition caused by parasitic worms that live in the heart and lungs of dogs and other mammals. If left untreated it can lead to severe and fatal damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver of your pet. There are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, but as it progresses symptoms can include the development of a persistent cough, fatigue, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after light exercise, decreased appetite and weight loss.
Heartworm is solely transmitted from animal to animal by infected mosquitoes. When a mosquito containing matured, infective heartworm larvae bites an animal these infective larvae are passed on. They then make their home in the heart and pulmonary vessels of the host. People who live in areas with higher concentrations of mosquitoes are at much greater risk for their pet to contract heartworm. There is no way to tell if a mosquito is infected with heartworm, so preventing the disease is of the utmost importance for pet owners.
Heartworm Facts and Myths
Heartworm is NOT able to be transmitted to humans by their dogs, cats or other pets. It can only be transmitted by those infected mosquitoes and is very rare.
Heartworm can NOT be transmitted to your other pets by an infected pet.
Heartworm is NOT only a summertime issue. It is important that you take preventative measures to protect your pet, even in the colder months.
Heartworm DOES affect more than just dogs. Cats and ferrets are also common pets that are at high risk for the disease. Cats, in particular, are much more difficult to treat, and often die if they contract heartworms.
Heartworm DOES occur in all climates. Whether you live in the desert or you live in a more tropical area, mosquitoes are present. This means that there is always a danger that your pet can be infected.
Indoor pets CAN contract heartworm. Mosquitoes can easily make their way indoors, so prevention is important for all indoor pets.
Like many things, prevention is the best medicine when it comes to heartworms. Taking some simple steps each month, and each year goes a long way in keeping your pet healthy and safe.
Administering a monthly preventative medication to your pet is one of the safest and most effective ways to protect them from heartworm disease. As an added bonus, many of the preventative medications on the market offer protection from a variety of parasites in addition to heartworm, including roundworms, hookworms, and fleas.
There are usually two option for administering monthly preventative medicine, topical and chewable. It’s important to administer the medication at the same time each month to make sure your pet is as protected as possible. You can keep a chart on the fridge, mark it on your calendar, and even ask your vet if they offer a reminder service that sends you an email or text notification to give your pet their monthly dose.
Even with monthly preventatives, there is still a slight chance that your pet can contract heartworms, so getting them tested each year can save their life. For dogs, your vet will typically perform what’s called an antigen blood test. This test detects specific antigens from adult female heartworms and if present, are a good indication that your dog is infected.
Please let Lucky Dog VA know if your pet needs their heartworm treatment while you are away. We are happy to administer the medication.