Preventing Heartworm in Your Pets

Now that the weather is getting warmer, pets and pet owners alike tend to spend more time outside enjoying the welcoming spring temperatures. We love to take our dogs on long “walkies,” and maybe even to their favorite dog park, but we’re not the only ones who come out of hibernation during these warm months. This time of the year is beginning to bring out all types of insects. With this in mind, it is imperative to ask: are you protecting your dog from the dangers of heartworm? April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Here’s what you need to know about this disease and how to prevent your four-legged family members from contracting it!

What is Heartworm? 

Heartworm is a potentially fatal, parasitic disease that infects pets everywhere around the world.. According to The American Heartworm Society, over 1 million dogs are currently infected with heartworm. This disease is spread through the bite of a mosquito and has been reported the have affected animals in every state in the US. When a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, the larvae enter the bloodstream and nest themselves into the heart, lungs, and other surrounding blood vessels. It is here that they mature into adult worms and begin to reproduce. Adult worms can reach up to 12 inches in length and are able to live 5-7 years in an infected animal.

If left untreated, heartworm can lead to damage of your dog’s heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and essentially cost your dog his/her life. Although this disease is extremely expensive, and difficult to treat, prevention is easy. The best way to protect your dog from heartworm is to block it before it happens.

How do I prevent Heartworm in my dog or cat? 

If you are concerned about heartworm disease in your dog, the first step is to take him/her to the vet for a heartworm test. This is important because if your pet is already infected and begins preventative treatments, it can cause great harm or even death. If the test results are negative, your vet can prescribe your dog or feline monthly preventative medicine. Depending on the type of medication, your dog will need monthly doses of medicine that can be taken orally, topically, or can be injected. These medicines work by effectively exterminating the parasite in its premature, larval stage. The best way to keep your pup safe and halt the chance of heartworm is to be consistent with monthly preventative treatments. For more information about heartworm disease, protection, and prevention, please visit American Heartworm Society online.