As it heats up across the U.S., both humans and their pets start getting bitten by mosquitoes.  It’s especially intense when we’re close to a water source, like a river or lake. Those bites are one of the tell-tale signs of summer. 

Though any bug bite is annoying and itchy for a human, mosquito bites can be deadly for pets due to the transmission of heartworms. It’s National Heartworm Awareness Month, so we’re sharing a bit more about heartworms and why it’s absolutely critical to safeguard your pet with preventatives.

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Heartworm is a parasitic disease that is spread through mosquito bites, where filarial larvae are injected into the host’s bloodstream. It occurs during warmer times of the year and is much more prevalent near water sources, which are major breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Once the heartworm larvae are in a pet’s bloodstream, they can mature into adult heartworms that infiltrate a dog’s cardiovascular system. That means a pet’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels can be crawling with spaghetti-like worms. Not only do the worms themselves cause damage, but the secondary inflammation from the body’s response to them can cause major health problems as well.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many indicators that point to a heartworm infection. The most common symptom in dogs is a cough; cats with heartworm disease can show no symptoms and then die suddenly without warning. That’s why it’s so important to talk with your veterinarian to determine the best preventative treatment for your pet.

 

What can you do to prevent heartworm in your pet?

Bring your pet in for an annual exam and make sure that exam includes a heartworm test. It’s actually a combined test that looks for heartworm, lyme disease, and other common infections, so you’ll be covering several bases with one test. A recent test is absolutely necessary to getting a heartworm preventative from your vet. Some heartworm preventatives can be harmful to pets that already have heartworms, so it’s critical to know their status ahead of time.

Talk with your vet about heartworm preventative and determine the best fit for you and your pet. There are various kinds of heartworm pills that you can take home and give your pet. Many of these pills have the added bonus of protecting against certain intestinal parasites, like roundworms and hookworms, which can be transmitted to humans (heartworms cannot). Some vets also offer heartworm preventative shots that last for 12 months, which reduces the instance of forgetting to give your pet a pill.

When you give heartworm preventative, make sure your pet actually ingests the medication. 95% of the time your pet will eat it out of your hand. However, you might give the heartworm preventative and assume it was ingested, only to find one or more of the pills stashed under a couch or table. Try mixing it in with a food your pet loves and watch to see that it isn’t spit back out. 

 

Make sure heartworm prevention is top of mind.

Make no mistake: heartworm is a deadly disease, however, it’s easily preventable. If your pet needs an updated heartworm test or you’d like to talk about different preventative options, contact your veterinarian today to schedule an appointment.