That Time of Year: Handling Heartworm Prevention Before it’s Too Late

It’s been proven that people benefit from friendly reminders. Whether it’s the card in the mail from your dentist or a poke from your dad to call Granny on her birthday, we all need a bit of prodding from time to time. Sometimes, we know the time is approaching to accomplish a specific task, and instead of putting it off, we get on board. This is never more true than in the case of heartworm prevention.

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Getting involved with our community and spreading the word about this disease will hopefully help protect our nation’s pets.

Your Prevention Back Pocket

Taking a proactive approach to your pet’s wellness has a lot to do with his or her health, and parasite prevention tops the list. Your pet can be screened for diseases spread by parasites, and in the case of Lyme disease, vaccinations are also available. Untreated heartworm disease, however, is not only dangerous, it can also be deadly.

Small and Fatal

Mosquitoes are to blame for the spread of heartworm disease. They pick up the parasite dirofilaria immitis while sucking up the blood-meal of an infected animal – commonly a dog, cat, raccoon, opossum, wolf, or coyote. The parasite, in its microscopic stage, is then deposited in the bloodstream of another animal victim.

Why Heartworm Prevention Matters

The microscopic heartworms travel through the bloodstream to the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels. Over an extended period of time, heartworms can grow up to 12 inches in length by the time they reach adulthood. These worms cause significant damage to the organs and can lead to death if left untreated. When detected early on, dogs can be successfully treated, but diagnostic testing can be painful and expensive.

Unfortunately for cats, the disease is not treatable and is often fatal, which is all the more reason for feline owners to get on the heartworm prevention bandwagon.

Getting Away From it All

The bad news is that heartworm exists in all 50 states. The good news is that you can prevent it! The life cycle of heartworms explains why we advocate for year-round prevention. It takes about 6 months for heartworms to mature. When a pet is taken off medication in the “dormant” seasons of fall and winter, the worms can continue to incubate. When heartworm prevention is in full-force (typically via a monthly topical), your pet’s future remains bright and strong.

Not only does this stop heartworms from taking up residence in your pet’s internal organs, it also wards off various other parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Some of these worms have the potential to spread to you and your family. Year-round prevention is the best choice.

A Close Eye

Heartworm screening is an important component of prevention. If a parasite preventive is given to a pet that’s already tested positive, a severe reaction or even death can occur.

A diagnosis of heartworm disease may reveal symptoms that require emergency care, including:

  • Asthma-like attacks
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased mobility
  • Collapse
  • Weight loss

Large worms can be surgically removed, but if you’re focused on heartworm prevention, your pet can remain safe and healthy.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about heartworm prevention, and keep fighting the good fight all year long!

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