Protecting Your Pet During Heartworm Awareness Month
April is Heartworm Awareness Month, and our veterinarians at Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital want to use the opportunity to educate pet parents about the dangers of heartworm disease while helping you better understand how you can protect your pets.
Mosquitos are more than just pesky insects, they can also carry diseases and parasites, like heartworms, that can make your pets ill with a single bite.
What Are Heartworms?
Heartworms are a type of parasite that can affect both dogs and cats, but dogs more commonly and severely.
Infected mosquitos carry heartworm larvae and transfer the parasites to other animals through their bites. When a dog or cat is bitten by a mosquito, heartworm larvae enter the animal’s bloodstream where they travel through the body, finally settling in the heart and lungs.
In dogs, heartworms will mature into adult worms which can reach up to one foot in length and start to reproduce in the pet’s blood vessels. Cats are considered atypical heartworm hosts, and as a result, heartworms usually do not reach maturity in a feline host.
What's the Danger of Heartworms?
Pets infected with heartworms experience respiratory problems and issues with their circulatory systems because heartworms take up residence in a pet’s heart and lungs. Heartworm disease refers to these symptoms and effects caused by heartworm parasites. Left unaddressed, heartworm disease not only significantly damages a pet’s health, but it can also be fatal.
Heartworm disease is considered a serious problem for pets because, once a pet is infected, treatment is difficult. There is no approved treatment for cats, and the treatment for dogs is lengthy and can cause significant side effects.
How to Protect Your Pets From Heartworm Disease
Prevention is the most important step in protecting your pets from heartworm disease. Preventatives are available in the form of oral tablets given monthly. Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital recommends dogs be given heartworm prevention year-round because it only takes one warm spell for mosquitos to become active. When given monthly and continuously, the preventatives will kill the larvae before they are able to mature into problematic adult worms.
Administering a heartworm preventative to a pet that has already been infected, however, can be dangerous. So, it’s essential that our veterinarian screen your pet for heartworms before administering a preventative.
You can also take steps to minimize the mosquito population in your pet’s immediate environment by keeping your yard cleaned up, free from debris, and eliminating any standing water (flower pot trays, birdbaths, pools, and puddles).
Schedule a Heartworm Prevention Appointment
Don’t wait; protect your pet today. To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital.