Due Diligence: Heartworm Prevention

Beautiful yorkshire terrier playing with a ball on a grassCringe-worthy fact of the day: mosquitoes typically enjoy a four-minute blood meal before zooming away to another victim. This non-stop hunt has the potential to spread disease such as malaria, dengue fever, and the West Nile virus. Unfortunately, residents of San Antonio are all too familiar with mosquitos and the associated health risks.

Heartworm disease is also spread by mosquitoes. Although people aren’t at risk, our animal friends certainly are, making heartworm prevention one of our top priorities. Not sure how to protect your dog, cat, or ferret? Look no further!

Parade of Parasites

Most pet owners are aware of fleas and ticks, but when it comes to heartworm disease, there’s typically a great deal to discuss. Because of our climate, mosquitoes are present almost year round, making it fairly common for pets to contract heartworm disease.

What are Heartworms?

Heartworms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of otherwise healthy dogs and cats. When an infected mosquito bites your pet, heartworm microfilaria pass into the bloodstream. Over time, these baby worms mature into larvae and then full-fledged heartworms (we’re talking up to 14 inches long!).

Heartworms reproduce and cause major damage to the heart and lungs. Luckily, heartworm prevention has never been so easy and effective!

Heartworm Prevention for Your Pet

We advocate for year round parasite prevention in the form of monthly oral or topical products. If your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, his or her heartworm preventive will stop the larvae from maturing. Prior to placing your pet on a preventive, we will conduct a screening test during his or her wellness exam. If the test is positive, treatment (e.g., injections, medication, etc.) can take several months.

Unfortunately, heartworm treatments are only effective for dogs. A cat will eventually succumb to the disease, making heartworm prevention all that more important.

How Would You Know?

If your pet is infected with heartworms, it may be a long time before he or she exhibits any discernible symptoms. However, if worms begin to grow larger in the right side of the heart, you may face a true pet emergency. Heart disease, heart failure, pulmonary edema, and respiratory failure must be combated quickly. In this situation, surgery could save your pet’s life.  

The Future

Heartworm prevention is an important endeavor. This all too common disease can be totally devastating. At Ten West Bird and Animal Hospital, our team is always available to discuss the right plan for your pet. As always, please contact us with any questions!