Restaraunt_iStock_000060704466_LargeFrom treats to toys, many pet owners don’t think twice about showering a pet with love. After all, pets have our hearts. But what about protecting theirs through heartworm prevention?

Heartworm disease is one of the more deadly, but preventable illnesses we see in pets. Yet, many pets remain unprotected. This game of chance may not seem like such a big deal – until a pet is diagnosed with heartworm.

The Risk of Heartworm

Heartworm disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire these microscopic parasites, called microfilariae, from other mammals such as coyotes, skunks, and foxes.

These microfilariae enter the bloodstream where they develop into larvae. The larvae continue to move through the blood vessels, into the heart. As they mature, they reproduce additional microfilariae, often resulting in hundreds of worms.

Heartworm and Your Pet

Canine heartworm disease was thought to be a problem only among coastal states, but we’re seeing many more incidents of the disease across the U.S. However, it’s true that warm, humid regions have the highest rates of heartworm diagnoses (including here in Georgia). Although much less common, cats can also become infected with heartworm disease.

Clinical symptoms of heartworm include:

  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Disinterest in exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Unfortunately, many pets do not exhibit noticeable symptoms until the heart and lungs are compromised. In some pets, heart or respiratory failure can occur.

Safe and Effective Heartworm Prevention

Since the only way your pet can acquire this disease is through a mosquito bite, heartworm prevention efforts target this water-loving foe. Getting a prescription preventive is the first step to ensuring your fur friend is protected against heartworm and other parasitic illnesses.

Before your pet is given a preventive, it’s critical that he or she undergo prescreening. Medications that safeguard against heartworm can be harmful if a pet is already infected.

At Clairmont Animal Hospital, we assess your pet’s risk of exposure, age, health, lifestyle, and other key factors to determine an appropriate parasite prevention schedule. Each pet is unique, and we can help you create the most effective wellness plan for your companion.

In addition to a parasite preventive, you can help reduce exposure at home or when traveling. Here are some tips to keep the mosquitoes away:

  • Remove all stagnant water sources from your yard
  • Steer clear of ponds or swampy areas when outdoors
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk or dawn, when mosquitoes are at their worst
  • Keep the lawn free of tall grasses and weeds
  • Consider using pet-safe bug spray (ask us for recommendations)

While mosquitoes and other parasites are unavoidable, you can help protect your pet by following our simple tips for heartworm prevention. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.

Happy (bite-free) spring!