Why Heartworm Protection Is Necessary for All Pets

Dog enjoying the outdoors

Why Your Pet Needs Heartworm Protection

One bite from a mosquito could put your pet's health in jeopardy if it's not protected against heartworm. Heartworms invade your pet's heart, lungs and blood vessels and can kill your pet or cause serious, lifelong health issues. Fortunately, medication available from your veterinarian can help your pet avoid heartworm.

How Heartworm Affects Pets

Heartworm is spread when a mosquito bites an infected animal and then bites your pet. Your pet's body provides the perfect environment for the growth of heartworm larvae, which become full-grown heartworms in just six months. Adult heartworms look like cooked pieces of spaghetti and vary in length from 4" to 14". The worms invade your pet's lungs and blood vessels and affect the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently.

By the time pets begin to show symptoms of heartworm, permanent damage to their lungs, heart, kidneys, liver or blood vessels may already have occurred. Animals that survive the disease may have ongoing health problems that reduce their life expectancy.

No matter where you live in the U.S., your pet can get heartworm disease. In fact, heartworm has been diagnosed in all 50 states, according to the American Heartworm Association (AHA). If a mosquito carrying heartworm catches a wind current, it can travel hundreds of miles away.

Signs and Symptoms of Heartworm

Infected pets may have these signs and symptoms:

  • Dogs. Dogs with heartworm disease may cough, be less active than usual, become fatigued easily and lose interest in eating. You may also notice that your pet's stomach may look bloated or swollen. Dogs usually have more adult worms than cats or ferrets. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the average number of worms is 15, but some dogs may have as many as 250 worms. Large numbers of worms can block the blood flow to the heart and increase the risk of sudden death.
  • Cat. If your cat is infected with heartworms, you may notice weight loss, coughing, shortness of breath, vomiting, lack of appetite or sudden collapse. Fluid can also build up in the abdomen, causing swelling. Cats usually only have a few worms, and most don't live long enough to become adults, according to the AHA. Although cats have fewer worms than dogs, they can still experience severe health problems due to heartworm.
  • Ferrets. Because ferrets are so small, even one or two worms can serious health problems. Heartworm symptoms in ferrets include rapid breathing, lack of energy, coughing or gums that look blue.

Preventing Heartworm

Heartworm disease is completely preventable if your pet takes preventative medication. If your dog is 7 months or older, it will need to be tested for heartworm first before starting the medication. Puppies younger than 7 months don't need to be tested first.

Depending on your preference, you can use a monthly topical medication applied to your pet's fur, a chewable tablet or injections at the veterinary office to protect your pet from heartworm. Your pet will also need a heartworm test every year to make sure that it hasn't been infected.

Monthly medications are also available for cats and ferrets. Kittens can start heartworm preventative medication as young as six weeks. Ferrets usually start the medication when they weight at least two pounds. Although the medications prevent heartworm disease by killing larvae, they won't kill adult worms. If your pet already has heartworm, it will need treatment to kill the worms or manage the health conditions caused by the infection.

Is your pet protected against heartworm? Contact our office to schedule a heartworm test and renew your pet's prescription for heartworm preventative medication.

Sources:

American Heartworm Society: Heartworm Basics

American Veterinary Medical Association: Heartworm Disease

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Keep the Worms Out of Your Pet’s Heart! The Facts about Heartworm Disease

Call to schedule your pet's wellness or urgent care exam now: (952) 758-6722

Testimonials

  • We have been clients of New Prague Animal Care for over 13 years. They have provided exceptional and compassionate care for our “pack” (6 dogs and 3 cats). As a professional dog trainer, breeder of Best in Show and Master Hunter Retrievers as well an owner of multiple kennel/ doggy daycare facilities (30+ years), I have worked with numerous veterinary clinics both in the Twin Cities and nationwide. Dr. Steve and his crew rate among the finest I have worked with. The clinic has all of the fea

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  • My dad has taken all of his dogs there for years, and I take mine there as well. Dr. Lavalle's bedside manner is amazing, and his staff are so genuine and caring. I always have, and will continue referring people to take their pets here. They are hands down the best veterinary care in the area!

    - Amber C
  • Have taken our dogs to Dr. Lavallee for over 10 years and he is great with each of them. He and his staff are very caring and helpful.

    - Barb S
  • Middle of a snow storm a few days ago. My little puppy was injured. I live in Faribult. Vet offices were closed in town. They actually called me while in route to see if I was ok. They were so good with the puppy. The cost was very reasonable. Called today to see how everything was going. I really was very impressed with this office. I recommend this place.

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  • Awesome experience! My pets love the care they get from Dr. Lavallee and his staff! They are not just a number; they care for them like my babies are family! Would highly recommend them!

    - SGGM
  • Found a 6-wk old kitten on the side of the highway and brought it in at 7pm on emergency basis. I was blown away by the compassion of Dr. Johnson's team. What a great experience. True animal people!

    - Anna H
  • Moved to New Prague and found this place for our dog.. Such great service, friendly staff, amazing Dr. and very accommodating to all of our needs!! Highly recommended by my pet family!!!

    - Kerri N
  • We love New Prague Animal Care, they are always so kind and caring, from the phone calls to when you walk in. We take our Siberian Husky Bandit in and he gets so much attention, well loved. We've had to take him in twice for emergencies, the in house testing was great, Dr. Johnson was able to resolve the issue almost immediately. I wouldn't take him anywhere else.

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    Show More - Myra C

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