Heartworm disease is preventable with careful monitoring and administration of monthly medication. Heartworm disease can cause life threatening heart issues in dogs, and severe lung problems in cats. Heartworm disease is transmitted to dogs and cats by the bite of an infected mosquito. Although you can’t avoid mosquitoes, you can effectively kill the parasites.
How do you get Heartworm?
Mosquitoes get the heartworm parasite from dogs with circulating parasites (microfilariae) in their blood. These infected mosquitoes can bite your pet and transmit the disease. If your dog or cat is not on a monthly preventative, they will get the disease. Preventing heartworm disease is safe, simple and inexpensive. Treating a heartworm infection is expensive and dangerous. Even with treatment, chronic health issues are likely to occur. Prevention is a much better plan.
Cats are not the preferred target of the heartworm. However, if an infected mosquito bites a cat it can become infected. Diagnosis of infections and treatment is much more complicated in cats. The symptoms can appear much like asthma.
How do you Prevent Heartworm?
There are many safe and effective prescription products for preventing heartworm disease. Although there are a variety of options, we recommend discussing them with your Veterinarian. Your Veterinarian knows your pet, is trained on the products and is trained on the intricacies of the disease. Using your Veterinarian’s advice ensures that you get the safest product, the best support, and the healthiest companion. An annual exam is critical not only to get your heartworm preventatives, but to prevent other health issues and ensure a long, happy, and healthy life for your pet. Since heartworm medications are prescription products, a current examination is not only important, but required. Heartworm preventatives are classified as prescription drugs because it is important for a trained professional to help you select a product and to ensure proper monitoring. These are drugs and although they are very safe, they need to be prescribed appropriately.
Typically dogs are prescribed a product that is given once per month and includes coverage for intestinal parasites. Cats are usually prescribed a topical product. Most heartworm medications work by killing any parasites that have been acquired during the previous month. They do their job and then they are gone. This means that during the next month, your pet can acquire heartworm. It is the next pill that purges the parasites from the system. This is why it is critical to give the pill every month. You do not want an infection to take hold. It might take more than one month to kill existing parasites. Intestinal parasites are a problem all year long.
How do you Treat Heartworm Disease?
In the unfortunate event that a dog becomes infected with heartworms, treatment involves injections of a product to kill the adult worms. The injection can be painful, and the dying worms can cause allergic reactions and lung problems. After the injections at least one month of cage rest is critical. All things considered, it is best to avoid the disease.
Our recommendation (and the recommendation of the American Heartworm Society) is for 12 months of prevention. Although you need a mosquito to transmit the disease, and you would not expect to see a mosquito in Maine in February, disease exists! It is also possible that a single dose does not completely eliminate a pre-existing infection. Isn’t it better to be safe?