Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that lives in your pet’s heart and blood vessels. Dogs are most commonly affected but cats, ferrets, and even humans can also get heartworms. If infected, problems can vary from heart failure to kidney disease or worse. It is recommended that all dogs in our area be on year-round heartworm prevention to minimize their risk of contracting this parasite. It is relatively easy to prevent infection if you give appropriate prevention, but once adult heartworms are established it can be both dangerous and expensive to treat. There are many options to use for prevention ranging from oral tablets taken monthly, topicals applied to skin monthly, or an injection given by your veterinarian that lasts 6 months so you don’t have to remember to give prevention at home.
- Why do I need to give heartworm prevention year round if it is only carried by mosquitos?
There are multiple reasons for this recommendation: First -we cannot accurately predict when mosquito populations will drop or resurge and mosquitos can live indoors over the winter months. Second – we have proven there are strains of heartworm resistant to our traditional preventions but giving prevention for several months (3 to 6 months) after the last mosquito bite greatly reduces the risk of becoming infected even with a resistant strain.
- If my pet has had heartworm prevention every month on time for its whole life, why do I still need a yearly heartworm test?
We know that no prevention is 100% effective, especially with resistant strains of heartworms. Some of the prevention products can be dangerous and cause a serious, even fatal, reaction if the pet is positive. The sooner we know if a pet is positive the more likely we are going to be able to successfully treat them. The longer the heartworms are present, the more damage is done to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Additionally, rare cases occur if the pet vomits shortly after administration of an oral product causing the inadequate absorption of the dose. If you use topical medication and give a bath too soon some of the product may have been washed off before it was fully absorbed, leaving your pet at risk.
- Where can I find more information?
Please talk to your veterinarian about which preventative is right for your pet. Both capcvet.org and veterinarypartner.com are great reputable resources as well.