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How to Prevent Heartworm in Cats and Dogs

how to prevent heartworm in cats and dogs
It’s no secret that your pet is your best friend. We know that when they’re not feeling well, neither are you. Read on to find out how you can prevent heartworm disease and keep your pet safe year-round.

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is caused by a blood borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis entering a pet’s system through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Once bitten, it takes 6 to 7 months for the infected larvae to reach full maturity and begin reproducing in the canine’s heart, lungs, muscles and blood vessels. Adult heartworms could live and reproduce for as long as 5 to 7 years! To the naked eye, these worms appear to be almost like strands of hair as they are thin, near white in color, and can grow up to 12 inches in length. Once contracted, heartworm treatment is both painful for your dog and expensive for you. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Look out of the following symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs:
  • a persistent cough or difficulty breathing, especially when exercising
  • a decline in energy levels
  • coughing up blood
  • changes in appetite
  • weight loss
  • asthmatic symptoms
  • lethargy
  • fainting or collapsing
If you think your dog may have heartworms, visit your veterinarian immediately.

Heartworm disease in cats

While heartworm is much more common in dogs, it’s still a possibility in cats too. Heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats because most worms do not survive to the adult stages. Even so, they can cause real damage through a condition called heartworm associated respiratory disease.
Look out for the following symptoms of heartworm disease in cats:
  • coughing or asthma-like attacks
  • periodic vomiting
  • lack of appetite
  • weight loss
  • Sometimes, an affected cat may have difficulty walking, faint or have seizures, or suffer from fluid accumulation in the abdomen
While treating heartworm disease may not be simple, it’s easy to prevent, and you can take action now. Save your pet (and yourself) from the unnecessary heartache by taking preventative measures today.

How can I prevent heartworm disease in my pet?

April is heartworm and lyme disease awareness month, the perfect time to share some need-to-knows of heartworm prevention. There are many avenues for prevention when it comes to these pesky parasites such as the use of monthly oral pills, monthly topicals via skin, or bi-yearly injectable products. Talk to your veterinarian about prescribing a preventative that will work best for your pet and your lifestyle.
Whatever preventative path you choose, consistency is key. Regular treatment will improve the likelihood that your pet will be successfully safeguarded against heartworms. Set a reminder in your calendar to ensure you stay on track with protecting your pet from heartworm disease. In addition, consider treating your outdoor areas with mosquito prevention services and ensure there are no deep puddles or stagnant swamps on your property as there are more than 70 species of mosquitoes that can carry this nematode.
Remember, heartworm prevention is important year-round, not just during warm-weather months. Stay consistent both with your preventative medications and veterinarian visits.

What action can I take now?

The best heartworm prevention is your intentionality and commitment to being proactive. Prevention is a small price to pay to keep your best friend alive and healthy! If you find that your pet typically refuses medicine, look into alternative paths of administration, such as pill pockets, wrap-ups or a pill masker. Get started with Mixlab today to see how easy it is to get your pet’s heartworm meds delivered directly to you.