At this time of year, it is important we discuss heartworm disease. If you are relatively new to pet parenting, you may not have heard of heartworm disease before. Heartworm disease is caused by worms that develop and live in the heart, surrounding blood vessels, and lungs. This parasitic infestation mainly affects dogs, but some cats can also be known to become infected. Unfortunately, heartworm is a very serious medical problem and if left untreated, could cause permanent damage to the health of your pet, and eventually, death. The good news, thanks to veterinary medicine, is the disease is entirely preventable. This short guide will help you clarify what heartworm disease is, its symptoms, and why we recommend year round heartworm prevention.
Heartworm disease is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. While the risk of a bite from one is higher in the summer, mosquitoes are present all year round in many states. The mosquito deposits heartworm larvae near the bite wound, and these travel to the blood vessels where they can mature into adults. Once fully-grown, the worms can reproduce, continuing the lifecycle of the worm and allowing them to rapidly multiple in number.
Frustratingly, the symptoms of a heartworm infection are very hard to detect. In many instances, it can take six months or more for many symptoms to become apparent, and often by the time they do, many adult worms will already be present in your pet's system and will have caused damage to youpet's health. If a dog becomes infected, the adult heartworms can lead to both lung and heart disease due to the worms damaging the epithelium and plugging up major vessels and airways. Nethertheless, early identification is essential if you are to get your pet prompt life saving treatment.
Symptoms of heartworms include:
Fortunately, heartworm is a disease that can be treated. Modern veterinary medicine has produced a number of drugs capable of destroying heartworms at every stage of their lifecycle, meaning it is possible to eradicate the infection entirely. Here at Healthy Paws Veterinary Clinic, we recommend year round preventatives. Using preventatives will treat the infestation before it can compromise your pet's health.
- Many people will argue there is no point in giving heartworm prevention during the winter months when mosquitoes aren't around. However, we disagree as we've experienced some unseasonable warm winter months.
- Sticking to year round heartworm prevention doesn't allow people to forget about restarting it in the spring, or to have it pushed back to after the weather has already been warm.
- Heartworm prevention will continue to control against intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms. We see a very high incidence of intestinal parasites in our area, especially with dog parks, doggie day cares, and plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking and hunting. Plus, roundworms are very hardy organisms that won't die off even with a freeze. Both roundworms and hookworms are zoonotic diseases, meaning they can be passed from animals to humans. Children, especially are at risk of picking up roundworms or hookworms from the pet or the environment. Intestinal parasites can cause clinical signs in dogs as well, ranging from lose stool and a pot-belly to failure to gain weight and anemia from blood loss.
In conclusion, heartworm prevention is an important part of the wellness care for your pet. We are more than willing to discuss what is best for your pet at your next wellness visit.