9 Things You Need to Know About Heartworm Disease

April is Heartworm Awareness Month!!

Heartworm disease is a serious disease in dogs and cats that is transmitted by mosquitos. It is caused by foot long worms that live in your pet’s heart, lungs and blood vessels. Because mosquitos are so common in our area, heartworms are very common too. Yes – even if your pet stays inside!

1. We diagnose a pet with heartworm disease about once a week at SPAH! More than 1 million pets in the U.S. have heartworm disease. A recent study shows that heartworm disease is present in every state, with regions like Houston having severe infestations due to the number of mosquitos.

2. Heartworm disease in cats is very different than it is in dogs. Having just one heartworm in cats can be fatal, and, unfortunately, there is no treatment for heartworm disease in cats. Cats need to be on a monthly heartworm preventative, like Revolution, even if they are inside!

3. During the early stages of heartworm disease, dogs and cats often do not show any signs. Once signs like coughing, fatigue and exercise intolerance start, the disease has often progressed to a point where the heart and lungs are significantly affected.

4. Dogs and cats need to be on a heartworm preventative once a month year-round. Additionally, it is strongly recommended to have your dog tested for heartworm disease once a year even if they are on heartworm preventative to ensure that the preventative is working. Early detection is key to preventing heart failure.

5. Heartworm disease can be fatal. Because the disease affects the heart, lungs and blood vessels in dogs and cats, heartworm disease can lead to severe organ damage and death.

6. Heartworm disease can be treated in dogs, but not in cats. The treatment in dogs consists of a treatment protocol involving several steps and exercise restriction. Despite what some believe, there is no “slow kill” treatment protocol that is recommended by the American Heartworm Society. Adult heartworms can live for up to 7 years! So, the faster the worms are killed with treatment, the better your dog’s prognosis for a long life after treatment is.

7. You need a prescription from your veterinarian for heartworm preventative. Heartworm preventative is not sold over the counter. We see many pet parents that mistakenly believe that the over the counter flea and tick product they are using is also a heartworm preventative. This misinformation can be deadly! Be sure you are getting your preventative from a licensed veterinarian.

8. Heartworm preventative should be started in puppies and kittens at 8 weeks of age. Adult heartworms have been found in pets as young as 6months of age!

9. Heartworm preventative is very safe, very effective and very affordable. When you compare the cost of heartworm preventative per year ($70-200) to the average cost of heartworm treatment ($1000-1500), there is no denying that it makes more financial sense to keep your pet on monthly preventative. Additionally, it will keep your furry friend healthy and around for a lot longer!

Please visit www.heartwormsociety.org for more great information on heartworm disease!