Heartworm is an insidious disease that affects cats and dogs throughout the United States and Canada. Spread by mosquitoes, areas most heavily populated by these insects have an even greater incidence of the disease, but veterinary experts suggest year-round prevention regardless of where you live.
These lethal parasites can grow up to one foot in length and live in your pet’s heart for years, restricting blood flow to the other organs. Without prevention, animals are exposed to this disease which, in its early stages, has no symptoms. If not detected and controlled with proper treatment, heartworm can lead to congestive heart failure and death. Prevention requires a visit to a veterinarian.
Dogs must be tested to ensure they don’t have heartworm. If your pet gets a clean bill of health, that’s great. But it’s important that you prevent any possible infestation. By federal law, heartworm preventative medicine is only available through a prescription. Treatments include a tablet or a topical liquid medicine that enters the bloodstream when applied to the skin, or a six-month heartworm prevention injection. These preventatives can provide protection against not only heartworm, but also other parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, fleas, ear mites and ticks. Heartworm prevention is simply good medicine.
We advise clients to put their pets on preventative drugs because it protects them from heartworms as well as a slew of other parasites that can be transmitted from pets to people. Pet parents should discuss with your vet which course of prevention will work best. Although cats can be infected, heartworm is found more typically in dogs. Be vigilant about protecting your pet – it’ll do his heart good.