Heartworm Symptoms and Prevention
Bzzz...SWAT! We all know that sound; it’s mosquito season again. Insect bites are certainly annoying, but did you know—one bite from a mosquito is all it takes to infect your dog or cat with heartworm disease?
Wisconsin has seen nearly a 75% increase in confirmed heartworm disease diagnoses since 2014. Safeguard your cat and dog by learning these common heartworm symptoms and essential methods of prevention, so you and your faithful companions can enjoy the beauty of nature without worry this year.
The Heartworm Disease Life Cycle
Adult heartworms live in the blood and surrounding blood vessels of an infected pet’s heart. Their offspring, called microfilariae, circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites the infected pet, it sucks out the blood containing the microfilariae. After living in the mosquito for two weeks, the microfilariae mature into infective heartworm larvae.
When the same mosquito bites another pet, the heartworm larvae are transmitted and the disease is spread. Nearly 100% of dogs exposed to the infective larvae will be infected with heartworm! Once the larvae are transmitted, it takes approximately six months for the larvae to become adult heartworms.
This insect-born illness can seriously affect the heart and lungs of your pet and can be fatal if not caught or treated in time!
Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, as the worms increase in the heart and lungs gradually over months and years, with repeated mosquito bites increasing the number of infested worms. If untreated, congestive heart failure and death can occur, so early detection is crucial to keeping your dog safe.
Heartworm symptoms include:
- chronic cough
- weight loss
- loss of energy and/or appetite
- labored breathing
If any of these symptoms occur, be sure to contact your vet and schedule a visit.
Prevention is Easy
The good news is that accurate testing methods and preventative medicine can keep your dog healthy and disease free. Here’s all you need to do:
- Get your dog tested with a simple blood test before starting any preventatives. Treating infected dogs can cause a severe reaction, or may make a future diagnosis difficult.
- If the test is negative, start your dog on a preventative program right away. We recommend the injectable ProHeart 6 which lasts up to 6 months, or Interceptor PLUS, a monthly oral preventative.
- If your dog tests positive, there are a variety of procedures and medications that can help. Early detection is very important to a full and successful recovery, so make an appointment right away if your dog shows any symptoms of heartworm disease.
- Get your dog retested every year.
ProHeart 6 Preventative
As an injectable preventative for heartworm, ProHeart 6 will last for up to 6 months. This means two shots a year and your four-legged companion will have a year's worth of protection. With more than 9 million doses distributed annually, this preventative is as trustworthy as they come.
Interceptor PLUS Preventative
Interceptor PLUS brings together two powerful active ingredients, milbemycin oxime and praziquantel, that combine for a safe and effective medicine to protect your dog against 5 types of dangerous parasites. It’s a chewable tablet that’s flavored with real chicken, so it’s easy to administer.
Cats Can Get Heartworm, Too!
Although heartworm is less common in cats, 60-90% of exposed cats will be infected; the disease poses a much greater danger, and is often fatal. The disease can be difficult to detect, as the signs—vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy, and weight loss—are common in many other feline diseases.
There are no heartworm treatments for cats that have been infected, so be sure and get your cat on a year-round preventative program. Revolution is the monthly preventative we recommend for cats.
Need Help with Heartworm Prevention?
We often offer discounts and specials for prevention, so be sure to ask your vet! Stop in this week, or call us at 262.728.8622.
If you struggle keeping track of when it’s time for your pets’ annual check-up and vaccination, we can help with that too. Simply sign up for Pet Portal and we’ll send you friendly reminders either online or in the mail.