5 Facts Pet Owners Should Know About Heartworms
A key component to every pet’s wellness and preventative care routine should always be parasite prevention. It’s important to protect your pets from all sorts of parasites and the diseases they can transmit and, in the case of heartworms, the disease they can cause: Heartworm Disease.
5 Things You Should Know About Heartworms
1. Heartworms Cause Permanent Damage to the Heart and Lungs
Pets get infested with heartworms when they are bitten by infected mosquitos that are carrying immature worms called heartworm larvae. Once injected into your pet’s bloodstream, the worms travel through the blood until they mature and get big enough to get lodged in the blood vessels of the lungs. After this happens, the worms continue to grow into full-sized adults and eventually start to reproduce. When enough heartworms get lodged in the lungs, they start to damage the heart and lungs and cause respiratory symptoms. This is called Heartworm Disease and if not treated can be fatal.
2. Prevention is Key
Heartworm infestation is easily preventable with monthly heartworm preventative medications. Since a heartworm infestation is so serious for pets, the American Heartworm Society recommends protecting pets year-round and not just during mosquito season. Continuous protection is the only way to ensure your pet is never exposed to the risk of getting heartworms. These preventatives are 99% effective when used appropriately.
3. Treating Heartworm Disease
Prevention is best, but if your dog tests positive for heartworms, the treatment and outcome will depend on how severe their symptoms are (if they have any at all). For dogs who do not have any symptoms of Heartworm Disease or who have minimal symptoms, treatment outcomes are usually good. The treatment involves a multi-month’s long plan of oral and injectable medications that need to be given according to very strict guidelines. For dogs who are symptomatic, the damage to the heart and lungs may be too advanced and treatment may not be effective.
4. Heartworm Preventatives Require a Prescription
Administering a preventative heartworm medication to an animal that has already been infested with heartworms can be detrimental in some cases. For this reason, heartworm preventatives are only available with a prescription from your veterinarian. If you have missed more than 2 months of preventative administration, it is best to call and speak to one of our veterinarians before restarting the preventatives.
5. Dogs Should Be Screened Annually
Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital recommends screening dogs annually for heartworm infestation, even if they don’t have symptoms of Heartworm Disease, because treatment outcomes are much more favorable if treatment is started before symptoms occur.
This screening involves a simple blood test that looks for evidence of the parasites in your dog’s blood. Doing this every year ensures that if your dog was infested with heartworms, it is found early so that treatment can be instituted immediately.
Heartworm Screening and Prevention With Our Veterinarians in Sleepy Hollow
At Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital, we take parasite prevention seriously and ensure it’s a part of every one of our patient’s preventative care plans. We can talk with you about protecting your pet from heartworms in addition to helping you select a safe and effective flea, tick, and intestinal parasite preventative. We welcome you to contact our office to schedule a parasite prevention appointment for your pet today.