What are the Benefits of Having Your Pets Treated with Heartworm Prevention?

Every pet owner is rightfully concerned about their pet getting heartworm. It is a serious condition that is a health problem primarily for dogs, although cats, ferrets and some animals in the wild such as wolves can become infected as well. If left untreated, it can cause liver problems and congestive heart failure which could lead to your pet’s premature death.  Many of the newer flea preventatives also have a heartworm preventative in the product making treating for both much more affordable, since the additional protection is often only a few dollars more.  Even though there are not readily available heartworm tests for cats, several of the better flea preventatives for cats will also prevent heartworm.

Causes of Heartworm

Animals get heartworm through mosquitoes who carry the infection. However, simply being bitten by an infected mosquito does not mean that heartworm will strike your pet. Other factors can cause the disease not to develop, such as the developmental status of the heartworm larvae inside the mosquito. Areas of the country that are colder, and thereby have less mosquitoes, are less likely to provide opportunities for your pet to get sick. However, cases of heartworm are regularly reported in all 50 states and Ohio is one of the more prevalent states for heartworm…in past surveys there are typically 4000-5000 new cases a year in Ohio and 1/3 of those dogs are indoor pets.

Prevention

The good news is that if your pet gets heartworm, there is an effective treatment which is usually successfully. However, the most effective way to deal with heartworm is to help your pet avoid getting it in the first place by using preventive measures. These include a range of products that include tablets as well as injections that can provide protection for up to six months. Use of these products almost always succeed in preventing a heartworm infection from taking hold, although they are finding resistant strains to prevention out there. Resistant strains are one reason that the American Heartworm Society and our clinic recommend annual testing to ensure early detection and treatment.

Year Round Protection

According to the American Heartworm Society, pet owners are wise to take the trouble to ensure their pets have year round protection from heartworm. This is recommended even in those northern areas where mosquitoes are not active all year. That is because there is often a delay between the infection and the onset of symptoms by up to six or seven months. So a summer bite may result in a mid-winter heartworm attack if left untreated. The other important thing to note is that the preventatives only work during a specific stage in the life of the heartworm larvae. If the medication is not present during that particular stage then the heartworm larvae can survive and mature into an adult heartworm! This is another of the reasons why heartworm testing is recommended each year to ensure early detection if your pet does acquire heartworms.

Long Term Benefits

Before starting a preventive program, be sure to have your dog tested to determine whether they are already infected. Preventatives can have deadly reactions in dogs that are heartworm positive! Once they have a clean bill of health, then beginning a prevention program will give you the benefit of peace of mind that your pet will not become a heartworm victim. Most preventatives also have the added benefit of helping to prevent the infection from some intestinal parasites which can be transmitted to humans and most commonly to children.