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National Heartworm Awareness Month

What is heartworm and is it serious?  Heartworm disease can cause severe damage in your pet’s lungs, hearts or other organs.  The parasitic worms are known as Dirofilaria immitis and spread through a mosquito bite.  As awful as it sounds your dog (or cat) becomes a host for the worms to mature into adulthood, and as the worms grow they can live in your pets organs.  Heartworm is not contagious and cannot be passed from dog to dog and is only spread by the bite of a mosquito.

Heartworm prevention is surprisingly easy and there are many approved products on the market.  Your veterinarian is the best resource to ensure you protect your dog or cat accordingly.  As spring begins mosquitos begin to hatch and the risk factor to your pet’s health increases.  Treatment of heartworm is available at a high cost to the owner and a high risk to your pet. It includes costly x-rays, arsenic based drugs, invasive surgeries.  Prevention is the best treatment.

Should you get your dog tested for heartworm? This is a question to discuss with your vet, however things you should consider are:

How old was your dog when heartworm prevention started? Any dog over 7 months should have an established prevention plan in place.

If your dog has been on heartworm prevention consistently and regularly season to season, did you ever miss a dose or switch from one form of treatment to another? Did you travel recently to an area where heartworm is more common?

Cats can also get heartworms after being bitten by an infected mosquito, although they are not as susceptible to infection as dogs.  A cat is not a natural host of heartworms because the worms do not thrive as well inside a cat’s body.  Both indoor and outdoor cats are at risk for heartworm disease and owners must make responsible decisions to test for and treat their cats.

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