Although the heartworm parasite can survive all year long, it becomes even more prevalent in the spring and summer after being somewhat dormant in the winter. That’s why year-round parasite protection is so important. If you do not yet have a heartworm prevention plan in place for your dog or cat, just schedule an appointment with us and we will help you decide on the most appropriate product.
Understanding Heartworm Transmission
A heartworm is a tiny parasite that can live inside the body of an infected mosquito. Transmission occurs when that mosquito bites your pet. Reproduction can happen very quickly once the heartworm makes its way inside of your pet’s body. The heartworm that was originally microscopic in size can grow to more than 12 inches and reproduce dozens of times.
Although it is far more common for dogs to acquire heartworm, the disease has a deadlier course with cats. We agree with the American Veterinary Medical Association that puppies can start using preventive products for heartworm by the time they reach eight weeks old. It isn’t necessary at this early stage to complete any other type of testing.
By the time your puppy reaches the age of six months, we will complete a heartworm test to make sure she is heartworm negative before continuing or changing preventive products. Since there is little we can do for cats with heartworm, we recommend keeping your feline friend indoors.
Heartworm Testing and Prevention
It only requires a simple blood test to determine if a dog has heartworm. Unfortunately, we must complete several blood tests on cats before confirming the presence of the parasite. The past recommendations for heartworm prevention was to wait until the early spring to start using it on your pet and discontinue it in the winter. The American Heartworm Association now advises pet parents to keep up with preventive medication or products continually throughout the year. This can help to kill other parasites besides heartworm.
Common Signs of Heartworm in Companion Animals
With cats, the primary symptom associated with heartworm infestation is difficulty breathing. This is due to the parasite living in their lungs. Dogs display more varied symptoms because the heartworm can live in the ventricles of the heart as well as the heart itself. Typical symptoms of canine heartworm include loss of appetite, fatigue, coughing, vomiting, lethargy, and weight loss.
Heartworm infestation is painful and sometimes deadly for your pet. It’s also a long and costly process to treat it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that heartworm infestation is entirely preventable with a product appropriate to your pet’s species, breed, age, and lifestyle. Your pet’s annual check-up is a great time to discuss your concerns about parasite prevention. We also encourage you to contact us if your pet shows any of the symptoms of heartworm disease listed above.