Heartworm Prevention in Dogs and Cats
Heartworm prevention can be a hot topic in the spring and summer months, and even all year round. Heartworm has a 6 month incubation period, meaning that pets who stop their medication for half the year are at risk.
With summer weather in full force, mosquitoes are on the rise again in our area. There are over 20 types of mosquitoes that can transmit the heartworm parasite to our pets, and they are all active at different times of the year. Luckily, heartworm prevention is safe, effective and easy to administer – even for all 12 months of the year.
A Cycle of Infection
Pets who are positive for heartworm can contribute to the infection of other animals in their geographic area. The microfilariae (juveniles) that are released by adult heartworms can be taken up by mosquitoes and transmitted to other pets and wildlife. Dogs are the ideal hosts for heartworm, but cats, coyotes, foxes, and other wildlife can also be infected.
The microfilariae eventually make their way to your pet’s heart and pulmonary arteries and develop into foot long mature adult heartworms, capable of reproduction. Only when this occurs will a heartworm test yield a positive result!
You can stop the cycle by making sure your pet is on a 12 month schedule of heartworm prevention. If an infected mosquito bites your pet, the medication in the bloodstream will kill the microfilariae.
Most owners are not aware that their pets are heartworm positive. Heartworm signs can look very similar to other diseases. If your pet has any of the following problems, please give us a call to have them seen and tested.
- Soft, dry cough
- Labored breathing
- Exercise intolerance
- Weight loss
Heartworm tests are recommended every 12 months. Dogs can be treated effectively if the disease is caught early on, but treatment is involved and costly. Unfortunately there is no treatment currently for cats.
To prevent heartworm most effectively, the American Heartworm Society recommends a year round preventive be given to dogs and cats. Preventives can be oral or topical. They also protect your pet from intestinal parasites, which can wreak havoc on your pet’s health.
We’re happy to discuss your options for heartworm prevention at your pet’s annual wellness exam. Or, if your pet’s preventives have lapsed, please call us so we can discuss the best options for your pet’s health.
As always, your team at Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center is committed to your pet’s best health. If you have additional questions or concerns about heartworm prevention for your dog or cat, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.