Many people are well aware of the fact that April showers bring May flowers, but did you know that those same showers can also bring mosquitoes that can put your dog or cat at risk for developing heartworm? That’s probably why April has been named Heartworm Awareness month, and to celebrate, your friends at The Vet Set — your premier animal hospital in Carroll Gardens — have set out to provide you with all of the information you need to know about heartworm.
Many people don’t realize just how often their dogs or cats are exposed to both regional and local mosquitoes. All it takes for your pet to become infected by heartworm is one bite from an infected mosquitos. Additionally, many different species of mosquitoes can transmit heartworm — 22 different species in fact — so it’s important to always be aware and take steps to prevent heartworm.
Heartworm preventatives sounds pretty straight forward. If you give them to your dog or cat, they will prevent your pet from getting heartworm, right? Instead of preventing your dog from getting heartworm in the first place, they work by killing any larvae inside your pet’s body.
There’s a common misconception that dogs and cats can only get heartworm in areas that are muggy or near water, because these are the areas that tend to have the most mosquitoes. However, it’s important to know that pets could get heartworm anywhere there are mosquitoes, which means anywhere in the United States.
Mosquitoes are generally associated with warm weather, so many pet owners stop worrying about giving their dogs or cats their heartworm medication in the fall and winter. However, it’s important to give your pet their heartworm preventative all year round, not just in the spring and summer, because different species of mosquitoes can transmit heartworm at different times of the year.
If preventing your dog or cat from getting sick is not enough of a reason to give them a heartworm preventative, maybe the cost of treatment will be. Heartworm treatment is cheap and simple; all you have to do is give your pet a monthly medicated treat. Treating it, on the other hand, is a lot more complicated, and believe it or not, it can cost up to 15 times more to treat heartworm than it does to prevent it.
Like with most diseases, the longer you wait to get your pet treatment, and the more severe the heartworm is, the more difficult it can be to treat. What makes matters even worse is that the symptoms are few, if there are any at all. Symptoms start to appear more frequently as the disease progresses, and they can include a mild, persistent cough, fatigue after moderate activity, reluctance to exercise, weight loss and a decrease in appetite.
Heartworm is an incredibly serious disease, and it can be fatal if it’s left untreated. For this reason, all dogs and cats need to be tested for heartworm annually. As we mentioned, symptoms aren’t always evident. This makes regular testing absolutely essential.
If you have a dog or a cat who spends most of their time indoors, it certainly helps to improve their chances of getting heartworm, but it doesn’t eliminate the risk altogether. Mosquitoes can and do make their way into our homes, and the only way to be sure that your pet won’t develop heartworm is to get them on a preventative.
We hope that this blog will give you some insight into what heartworm disease is and why it’s so important to prevent it. If you have questions or concerns about heartworm, or you would like to learn more about getting your pet started on a heartworm preventative, turn to your go-to neighborhood animal hospital in Carroll Gardens. Contact us at The Vet Set today to schedule your appointment.