What are heartworms? They are a foot-long internal parasites that occupy the heart, lungs and blood vessels in our pets. Dogs are a natural host for them, but cats and some wildlife can be affected as well. Each animal will show signs of heartworm disease differently.
How do our pets get heartworms? Mosquitos play the important role here. By feeding off an infected animal, they pick up the baby worms (or microfilaria) and deposit them into a susceptible animal by feeding on them.
Is our area affected? Yes. All 50 states and Canada have been affected by heartworm disease. The American Heartworm Society (AHS) took a survey in 2016 and noted heartworm disease has increased by 21% since 2013. This number continues to rise.
What happens if a pet gets heartworm disease? Testing will be done to confirm your pet has heartworms. Then your pet’s heartworm disease will be staged to allow for optimum treatment. AHS has a treatment plan that your veterinarian will follow. This treatment will include heartworm prevention, keeping pets calm/quiet, and injectable medication. Most treatments in dogs are successful but are not guaranteed to clear heartworm disease. Some patients don’t survive treatment. There is currently no treatment for cats.
What can we do to prevent heartworm disease? Giving oral heartworm preventative monthly, year-round is the start. Completing annual testing with your veterinarian is also recommended.
For more information on the topic of heartworm disease, please set up an appointment with your veterinarian. You can also refer to the AHS website: American Heartworm Society.