You would do anything to protect your pet’s health. With that high tech car-restrain system you could do a chase scene for the next Terminator movie and still make it to the dog park unscathed. When the vet said it might be helpful to add lean meat to his diet, you got on a first name basis with the local butcher. But are you doing all you can to protect him from a less obvious risk: heartworm disease?
What is Heartworm Disease?
Words like rabies and distemper prompt quick action, and it’s easy to avoid obvious dangers like antifreeze and snickers bars. Heartworm disease is one of the deadliest risks for your pet, and even more so because it’s so often underestimated. Heartworm disease is caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels, and can cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Dogs, cats, ferrets, and wild species including foxes, coyotes and wolves are all known carriers of heartworm disease.
How is Heartworm Disease Transmitted?
Malaria. West Nile virus. Itchy summer cookouts. Did Noah really have to let two mosquitoes on board? Not only are they annoying, but mosquitoes play the leading role in the heartworm’s life cycle. When they bite an infected animal, mosquitoes pick up blood contaminated with heartworm larvae, and can then transmit the disease to other animals. When the infected mosquito bites another animal, the larvae are deposited onto the skin’s surface, and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes about six months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms, which can live in dogs for up to seven years, and cats for up to three years. That lifespan means that the number of worms in an infected pet can increase every year, and in some cases, hundreds of worms have been found.
What are the Signs of Heartworm Disease?
You normally have to watch your fingers, but now he just sighs and slumps on his bed at dinnertime. Before, he bounded through your three -mile walk like a cartoon character, but now he lags behind. Signs of heartworm disease include loss of appetite, fatigue, and weight loss, and in advanced stages, pets can develop heart failure and a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Pets with large numbers of heartworms can develop Caval syndrome, which is marked by labored breathing, pale gums, dark colored urine, and can result in heart failure.
How Can I Prevent Heartworm Disease?
It might be impossible to save her from being slobbered by that Great Dane at the dog park, but protecting her from heartworm disease is easy with annual testing and a monthly preventative. And because pets are still vulnerable to heartworm disease even when taking a monthly preventative, they should always be tested for heartworms during annual preventative care visits. Giving your pet her heartworm medication late, or even missing just one dose can leave her vulnerable to infection. Crop dusting your property with mosquito spray might make the back yard less itchy for a while, but it doesn’t eliminate the risk of heartworm disease. Annual testing is the only way to be certain your dog or cat is heartworm free.
How Does Heartworm Medication Work?
Only your veterinarian can peer in your pet’s mouth with a flashlight and not get bitten, and only your veterinarian can prescribe heartworm medication. Whether oral, topical or injectable, all approved heartworm medications work the same way: by killing heartworm parasites in their larval stage. This includes the larvae deposited by mosquitoes on the surface of the skin as well as larvae that develop inside your pet’s body. Remember that preventatives are not effective in killing adult worms, which can develop in as little as fifty days, making it especially crucial to give heartworm preventives on a strict schedule. Is forgetfulness one of your strengths? Do you space your girlfriend’s last name sometimes? Consider ProHeart 6 – the injectable heartworm preventative. It lasts up to six months, which reduces the chance of a lapse in protection, and Mixed Pet staff can even send email or postcard reminders.