Just One Bite: The Importance of Heartworm Disease Prevention

heartwormModern pet owners have their hands full in making sure their pets are happy and healthy. Regular wellness exams, good nutrition, daily exercise, and plenty of snuggle time are all essentials when it comes to life with pets. Parasite prevention often takes a back seat, especially in the winter months, but this comes at a cost to our furry friends.

Heartworm disease is present in all 50 states. The risk of heartworm disease is increasing, despite safe, efficacious once a month prevention.  Allowing your pet to miss doses of heartworm prevention medication, or skipping it altogether, puts them at risk of contracting this deadly disease. Providing your pets with protection from heartworm is essential, and it begins right at Rutland Veterinary Clinic and Surgical Center

Heartworm Disease Decoded

Heartworm disease is caused by a microscopic parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes pick up the parasites by feeding on an infected animal, such as a dog, cat, raccoon, coyote, or possum, and pass it on during their next feeding.

Once a pet becomes infected, the heartworms travel through the bloodstream until they reach the heart. Over the next several months to a year, they multiply and grow rapidly, wreaking havoc in the heart, lungs, and accompanying blood vessels, as well as other vital organs.

Year-Round Prevention

It may seem logical to allow your pet’s heartworm preventive to lapse in the winter months. After all, a mosquito couldn’t possibly survive a Vermont winter, right?

Although our winters can be intense, it only takes a few unseasonably warm days for dormant mosquito eggs to hatch. Not only that, but the constant influx of tourists and rescue dogs to our beautiful state means an influx of pets that may be carrying heartworms. Pets traveling to other areas may also be at risk of infection. Year round protection is a must to protect your pets.

A Word About Cats

Our cat companions aren’t part of the heartworm life cycle, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still become infected. Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats range from subtle to dramatic, and can include coughing, difficulty breathing, weight loss, or sudden death. Because there is currently no treatment on the market for heartworm disease in cats, the disease is often fatal. Prevention is the only way to protect cats from the devastating effects of heartworm disease.

What About Indoor Pets?

Unless you’ve found a way to hermetically seal your home, it’s impossible to keep mosquitoes from occasionally finding their way indoors, putting indoor pets at risk. Even pets who never go outside need year-round heartworm prevention.

Putting It All Together

April is Heartworm Awareness Month, and what better opportunity to make sure your pets are protected. If your pet hasn’t seen us for a heartworm test in awhile, or you need a refill on heartworm preventive, please contact the friendly team at Rutland.

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About Rutland Veterinary Clinic and Surgical Center

Rutland Veterinary Clinic and Surgical Center provides top-quality veterinary care to the Rutland, VT pet community.