Tips for Heartworm Prevention and Why It’s Important for Pets

Plastic Container holding Heart Worms - Hampton Park Veterinary - Heartworm Prevention - Charleston, SCIn the US, 5 million households own at least one pet. This means it’s very likely that you have some furry feet under your roof, and you treat them as family members.

As with all family members, big or small, your pets can be susceptible to disorders and diseases. But if you know more about them, then you’ll know what to look out for and how to prevent and treat these things.

A major one to look out for is heartworm disease.

Read on to find out more about this disease, including information about heartworm prevention and treatment for pets.

What Is Heartworm Disease?

As you might’ve guessed, heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that’s called heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis). They’re transmitted by mosquitoes, so if your pets go outside, they’re at a larger risk of contracting heartworm disease. Even if they’re indoor pets, they can get heartworm disease, as no house is completely sealed off from mosquitoes.

Heartworms are very small; the larvae are only a few millimeters long.

If your pet is infected with heartworms, then it can lead to heart and respiratory issues. This is because the heartworm larvae go through the bloodstream and eventually get to the heart and live in the pulmonary artery.

The larvae will then grow in this organ, then mate and create more heartworms. Eventually, the heartworm population will start blocking off the heart and lungs of your pet. They also feed off your pet’s blood.

Heartworm Isn’t Contagious

If a pet has heartworms, the good news is, it can’t spread it to another animal. So you won’t have to worry about your dog contracting heartworm disease from playing with other pups in the park.

What you do have to worry about is mosquitoes (and their bites).

Heartworm Symptoms

It can be difficult to tell if your pet has heartworms at times. This is because some dogs and cats are asymptomatic, so you’ll never even suspect they have this disease.

Some potential symptoms of heartworm in dogs are:

  • Coughing (there might be blood)
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Liver damage
  • Heart failure
  • Decreased energy
  • Breathlessness when exercising
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Blood clots
  • Kidney damage
  • Internal inflammation

Symptoms of heartworm in cats include:

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Faint
  • Seizures

The symptoms will vary depending on how many worms are in your pet, as well as how long they’ve been there.

Why Is Heartworm Prevention Important for Pets?

As you can see from the above symptoms, heartworm disease can be very uncomfortable for your pets. Not only that, but the disease can lead to serious health issues, such as blood clots, heart failure, kidney damage, and liver damage.

If the infection gets bad enough, it can even lead to death.

Heartworm Prevention Tips

While we can’t completely protect our pets from mosquitoes and heartworms, there are some measures you can take to reduce the risks. Here are some of the most important steps you can take.

Perform Bug Control in Your Yard

It’s not pleasant to have bugs in your yard, as they’ll bite you and your pets. Not to mention, they can ruin your plants too. So perform regular bug control in your backyard for a win-win situation.

Don’t leave any standing water around, as mosquitoes will breed in these waters. Check bird baths and flower pots too, as these tend to gather water.

You can also use insecticide sprays, but make sure they’re pet-friendly first.

For a natural bug repellant, burn citronella candles.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

If you’ve heard the occasional buzzing in your home, then this means it’s not mosquito-proof.

Check all your screen windows and either repair or replace any that have holes. You should also keep your doors closed as much as you can to prevent mosquitoes from flying in.

Take Your Pet for Regular Vet Visits

Regular vet visits are always great for ensuring your pet’s in good health. Generally, you’ll want to bring them in at least once or twice a year.

At these visits, your vet can perform heartworm testing to see if your pet’s infected. From there, they can take the proper steps to treat your furry friend.

Give Your Pet Preventive Medications

There are several preventive medications your pet can use to protect against mosquitoes and heartworm. Your choices include oral and topical medications, as well as injections. Common medications used include Simparica Trio and ProHeart 12.

It’s a good idea to discuss with your vet which options are best for your pet.

Heartworm Treatment

You can take all the correct steps to prevent your pet from getting heartworm, but they still might contract this disease.

If this happens, then your vet will inject your pet with melarsomine (brand name Immiticide) to kill adult heartworms. They’ll need several injections, usually 3. Your vet may also treat your pet with doxycycline, an antibiotic.

Your pet will then need to rest for a month after the final injection. This is because the dead adult heartworms need to be reabsorbed by your pet’s body, which can cause complications if they exercise as normal.

Keep Your Pets Safe From Heartworm

Heartworm disease can be scary if your pet contracts it. But with proper heartworm prevention, you’ll be able to keep your companion safe.

Remember to bug-proof your home’s interior and exterior, and give your pet preventive medications. And most importantly, take them to the vet for regular appointments.

If your pet needs to see a vet in Charleston, SC, then book an appointment with Hampton Park Veterinary now. We’ve got telemedicine appointments available and convenient parking!

Learn more about Hampton Park Veterinarian