Heartworm disease is such a complex, ever-changing condition, the American Heartworm Society holds a symposium every three years to keep veterinarians up-to-date. The best way to protect your pet is to understand the transmission, prevention, and treatment of this life-threatening condition. Here are 10 facts to help you keep your pet safe:
1: There is no all-in-one heartworm, flea, and tick prevention product
Many pet owners believe the flea and tick prevention they use also protects their pets against heartworm disease, but that may not be the case. While the product Revolution claims to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworms, it’s only effective against the American dog tick. With six species of ticks in New Jersey, choose a more comprehensive tick preventive to provide a broader spectrum of protection. Pair a heartworm preventive with a flea and tick combo to more fully protect your pet.
2: All 50 states have had heartworm-positive pets
Think frigid states have no need for year-round heartworm prevention? Think again. Proven by heartworm-positive pets in every state, the mosquito is a hardy insect, capable of spreading infection nationwide.
3: There is no cure for heartworm disease in cats
While there is an approved treatment for adult heartworm infection in dogs, there is no safe medication licensed for cats.
4: Heartworm disease presents differently in cats than in dogs
In cats, heartworms can cause a severe and sometimes life-threatening disease called heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD). Symptoms include:
- Asthma-like attacks
- Difficulty breathing
- Weight loss
- Sudden death
Unfortunately, the first sign seen in some cats is sudden collapse or death. In dogs, signs may include:
- Tiring easily
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen abdomen due to fluid accumulation
- Heart failure
5: The heartworm life cycle is long and complex
Adult female heartworms living in an infected canine produce immature worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it picks up microfilaria, which develop into infective larva over 10 to 14 days in the GI tract of the mosquito. A mosquito bite then transmits the microfilaria to another animal, where they take six months to mature into adult heartworms. Adult heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and 2 to 3 years in cats.
6: We highly recommend annual heartworm testing
We know pets aren’t great at taking medication, so a yearly heartworm test ensures each dose was administered appropriately. If you’re worried your pet may have spit out a tablet or rubbed off a topical preventive, a simple heartworm test can put your mind at ease. Heartworm preventive manufacturers also guarantee their products, and if your pet becomes infected with heartworms, but you have proof of year-round prevention and annual testing, the manufacturer will cover the cost of treatment.
7: Treatment for heartworm disease is much more complicated than prevention
Heartworm prevention for dogs can be as simple as a biannual injection or a monthly tablet, while eliminating an infection can take months of treatment and strict exercise restriction. Even with treatment, your dog may suffer from permanent scarring of the blood vessels surrounding the heart and lungs.
8: Using the correct dose of prevention for your pet is important
Even though it may be tempting to purchase a larger-sized heartworm prevention product and split it between multiple pets, stick with the correct dose for your pet’s size. Manufacturers do not guarantee equal distribution of the medication throughout a tablet or topical product, so your pet may be incorrectly dosed if a preventive is split. Portioning out prevention also negates reimbursement from the manufacturer if your pet contracts heartworm disease.
9: Treatment for heartworm disease is much more costly than prevention
In terms of both finances and potential lifelong damage to your pet, heartworm treatment is more costly than prevention. If we diagnose your dog with heartworm disease, the cost of blood work, chest X-rays, hospitalization, and months of treatment quickly add up.
10: Indoor-only pets also need heartworm prevention
If you’ve never felt the sting of a mosquito bite while indoors, you are fortunate. These opportunistic pests thrive indoors—even in the middle of winter—and can infect your pet at any point. Gates, fences, and closed doors don’t protect your pet from parasites.
Interested in learning about the benefits of heartworm prevention? Contact us today!