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Discussing Heartworm Disease During National Heartworm Awareness Month

Over 1 million pets across the United States have heartworm disease. It is one of the most unfortunate statistics pet owners face, and an issue that must be addressed with urgency. As April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, it’s important to open the floor for discussions about heartworms, to help pet owners understand the importance of preventative treatments and early detection of this potentially fatal disease. 

How Pets Become Infected with Heartworms 

Heartworm is contracted by contact with mosquitoes carrying the disease. Once these mosquitoes bite your pet, they transmit the larvae of the heartworms into your pet’s blood, allowing the larvae to take residence within your pet’s lungs and heart and develop into full grown, adult worms. While dogs are most at-risk for heartworm, they do infect cats as well. 

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease 

If you suspect your pet has been infected by heartworms, there may be some signs. The signs of heartworm disease in dogs include lethargy, weight loss, coughing, and difficulty breathing. In cats the signs may look slightly different with the symptoms being a cough, fatigue, and vomiting. However, it’s important to note that in some cases, your pet may be infected and not display any symptoms at all, which is why regular testing is important. 

The Health Hazards of Heartworms 

Heartworms can wreak havoc on your pet’s health, causing permanent damage to your pet’s heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs. It can even be fatal when left untreated. 

Combating Heartworm Disease 

The most effective way to avoid the damaging effects of heartworms is to be proactive about your pet’s exposure to the situation. This means pursuing preventative treatments offered by your veterinarian. Most veterinarians will give you the choice of topical treatments, chewable, or injections that provide your pet with immunity to infected mosquito bites. 

How to Treat Heartworm

If your pet becomes infected with heartworm disease before you’ve had the chance to invest in preventative treatment, or if you adopt a dog that has tested positive, it’s essential to act fast to treat the heartworms before they progress. Treatment begins with an x-ray that enables your pet’s veterinarian to determine how advanced the disease is. Once this has been done, treatment typically includes a series of injectables, known as adulticides, which will be administered to kill off the adult heartworms. However, this is not an immediate fix, and will take time to completely cure your pet. 

To find out more about heartworm and heartworm prevention, contact your local veterinarian today!