Heartworm Preventative.

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month—the perfect time to remind all pet families about the importance of year-round heartworm prevention. The American Heartworm Society estimates that more than a millions pets in the United States currently have heartworms. These nasty little worms put pets at risk of severe heart and lung complications, but heartworms are preventable. At Capital Home Veterinary Care, we take pet parasites seriously. In this blog we discuss the dangers of heartworm disease and the importance of heartworm prevention.

Where Do Heartworms Come From?

With the arrival of spring comes the emergence of mosquitoes, and mosquitoes are carriers of heartworm larvae. When an infected mosquito bites your dog or cat, the heartworm larvae is transmitted through the bite wound and enters your pet’s bloodstream. Heartworms can grow to a foot in length and live within the hearts, lungs, and blood vessels of infected pets. Left untreated, these spaghetti-shaped worms can eventually cause heart failure. 

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Pets

Coughing is one of the first signs of heartworm disease in dogs. Sadly, because a cat’s body and blood vessels are small, the first sign of heartworm infestation in cats is often sudden collapse and cardiac arrest. Other symptoms in infected animals include:

  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing/trouble breathing
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss

Diagnosing and Treating Heartworm Disease

A blood test can confirm the presence of heartworms, and X-rays can help reveal the seriousness of the infestation. Pets diagnosed with heartworm disease must undergo months of injections coupled with oral medications to kill off all the adult heartworms and any larvae. Additionally, animals undergoing treatment for heartworm disease must remain fairly inactive because as the heartworms die, pieces of them can flow into blood vessels and cause blockages. Keeping the pet as still as possible will give the animal’s body time to absorb the worms as they die off.

Heartworm Prevention is Paramount

The best way to protect your pets from the devastating effects of pet parasites like heartworms is with year-round preventive medications. Heartworm prevention medications come in a variety of forms, including: 

  • Monthly chewable tablets such as Heartgard Plus and Sentinel Spectrum
  • Injectable medications administered every six months, such as ProHeart 6.
  • Monthly topical medications such as Revolution.

Consult Your Veterinarian

Many heartworm preventive medications offer vital protection against other pet parasites, such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, hookworms, and roundworms. Your veterinarian can discuss the preventive medication that is best for your pet based on age, weight, and overall health. A thorough veterinary examination is required before injections can be prescribed because these shots are not recommended for all dogs. 

If you have questions about protecting your pets from heartworms, we have answers! Please contact our team at (804) 432-2534 to schedule your pet’s checkup