April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, and for good reason. Heartworm is a serious disease found throughout the entire United States that affects both dogs and cats. Prevention is the best medicine. It can be very difficult and expensive to treat infected dogs, and there is currently no treatment for cats.
The parasite Dirofilaria immitis, commonly called heartworm, is transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites your pet it can transmit the Dirofilaria larvae into your pet’s bloodstream. Once inside your pet, the larvae continue to develop over the course of about six months. They make their way to the heart or lungs where they mature and reproduce. Adult worms live for years. They can grow to more than 12 inches long and cause blockages in the heart and lungs and damage to arteries.
Is My Pet At Risk?
Heartworm disease is more prevalent throughout the midwest and southeast but has been diagnosed in all 50 states. Because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.
The American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.
Heartworm medications kill immature worms and prevent them from maturing into adults that cause illness. For this reason, preventive medications are given continuously every 30 days because they kill the existing larvae, and cannot kill adult worms. Heartworm medications require a prescription from your veterinarian because annual blood testing is required to make sure your pet is not infected.
Some preventatives can also control intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Some products are even effective in treating external parasites such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, and the mite that causes scabies.
It may be next to impossible to keep all mosquitoes away from your pet, but they can carry many other diseases that can harm your pet. Here are some helpful tips you can take to reduce their exposure to mosquito bites.
- Use a parasite preventative for your pet that repels and kills mosquitoes
- Use a pet-friendly insect repellant
- Get rid of standing water sources around your home
- Grow mosquito repelling plants like basil or marigolds
- Use caution with yard pesticides
We have a large selection of heart worm and parasite preventative treatments for both dogs and cats. Choosing the right product for your pet should be done with the help of your veterinarian to make sure they have the best protection.