The Importance of Year-Round Heartworm Disease Prevention

Dog at vet for check up.

Did you know that pets can be infected with heartworm disease for years before they show symptoms? By the time they’re finally diagnosed, treatment may be limited, expensive, ineffective, or all three.

Heartworm disease statistics show infections occurring in all 50 states, and Texas is ranked in the top 10. Spread by mosquitoes, heartworm disease prevention is a year-round priority. 

Beyond Just Frustrating

The thing with parasites is that, well, they’re annoying. However, in addition to mild skin irritation from a flea or mosquito bite, they spread disease to pets and people alike. While we understand the thought process of treating problems if and when they occur, parasite prevention is often much easier and cheaper than treating the problems associated with these blood-sucking pests. 

In the case of heartworm disease prevention, it is definitely safer and more effective to stop problems from even starting. As a bonus, most heartworm preventive medications can guard against other parasites like hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms. 

The Terrible Truth

Sure, pet owners could wait and see if mosquitoes ever become problematic for their pets. The terrible truth, though, is that heartworm disease is untreatable in cats and often has fatal consequences. 

There are possible treatments of heartworm disease in dogs, but treatment plans are not always easy on the dogs, and can rack up costly hospitalizations, diagnostics, and medications. Plus, there are health risks associated with treatment of heartworm disease, and it takes a long time for pets to fully recover. 

Heartworm Disease Prevention

Preventing this potentially deadly disease is truly the only strategy. Whether you choose a monthly oral or topical medication, or opt for an annual or bi-annual injection, you are saving your pet from the possibility of infection. It’s easy, inexpensive, and a necessary component of responsible pet ownership.

Mosquitoes pick up microscopic heartworm larvae from the blood of infected mammals. As they continue to suck blood from various hosts, infected mosquitos pass the microscopic worms directly into the bloodstream of the numerous victims. Over a period of several months, the heartworms grow, mature, and produce offspring in an animal’s heart, lungs, and the surrounding blood vessels. 

Facing Reality

Clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be immediately known. Depending on the numbers, sizes, and locations of the worms, some pets go years without displaying troubling signs. 

Coughing, fatigue, reluctance to move, and weight loss are characteristic of heartworm disease. Cats can suffer from rapid breathing and vomiting as the heartworms block pulmonary arteries. As there is no treatment for cats, it’s often a matter of time until they succumb to their symptoms.

Testing and Treatment

Blood tests can detect heartworms after about 5 months have passed since initial infection. We can also locate heartworms with X-rays or ultrasounds of the heart and lungs.

If there has been a lapse between prevention medication, it is crucial to test for the possible presence of heartworm disease. Heartworm-positive pets that receive preventive medication can experience shock-like symptoms as the parasitic worms inside them suddenly die off. 

Once on a year-round schedule, heartworm disease prevention is within reach. If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s health and wellness, please call us at (210) 696-1700. Our staff is always happy to help you at Ten West Bird & Animal Hospital.