Heartworm Disease: Why All the Fuss?

(Image from the American Heartworm Society)
A Note From Dr. John:

You’re constantly told to keep your pet on heartworm preventative.  But why all the fuss?  What is heartworm disease, and what threats does it really pose for your pet?

Heartworms are worms that grow in the hearts of cats, dogs, and other canid species (wolves, coyotes, etc). If allowed to grow unchecked, the worms move into the blood vessels of the lungs, causing clinical symptoms such as coughing, labored breathing, decreased activity and decreased appetite. Eventually, untreated heartworm disease is fatal.

Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, (what we call the disease vector), meaning the prevalence of the disease depends of the region where you live. We are located in the Southeast, the hotbed of heartworm disease in the United States. Because of the prevalence of mosquitos, we recommend that all pets (dogs, cats, and even indoor only cats!) be on heartworm prevention year-round. Areas like the Pacific Northwest have much lower prevalence due to a relative lack of the disease vector. It is important to talk to your veterinarian about your individual pet’s risk of exposure to mosquitoes and develop a prevention plan accordingly. The good news is that heartworm disease is a preventable condition with easy once monthly medications.

Prevention is much easier than treatment—easier on your pocketbook and much easier on your pet’s health. Once your pet develops heartworm disease, treatment involves very expensive intramuscular injections that can cause muscle soreness. Pets being treated require strict confinement until the heartworms die off, which can take weeks to months. Treatment can also lead to serious complications, including sudden death.  Prevention, on the other hand, will simply require monthly administering.  Want another great reason to use heartworm preventatives? Most medications also protect against several forms of intestinal parasites and can even prevent flea infestations- all good things!

Now are you sold on heartworm preventative? So am I! Head on over to PetMartPharmacy.com and check out our great selection of preventative medicines at affordable prices.

For more information on heartworm disease, visit the American Heartworm Society

Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.