Heartworms, A Pet’s Worst Friend
By Dr. Steven Wolchinsky, Managing Veterinarian
April is Heartworm Awareness Month, so what better time to learn about the dangers and prevention techniques to keep your furry friends safe. Here are 5 things you need to know about heartworms:
1. Heartworms are a life-threatening parasite transmitted by mosquitos. Mosquitos carry the disease from pet to pet (mainly dogs, cats and ferrets) transmitting the larvae into the animal’s bloodstream. These larvae then turn into adults that live in your pet’s arteries, heart and lungs and can survive up to 7 years.
2. Heartworm transmitting mosquitos are closer than you think. Heartworm can be found throughout the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC area, and risks are especially high in marshy areas around rivers and streams. At Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital, we treat at least 50 cases of heartworm a year.
3. Most infected pets don’t show symptoms until the disease is advanced. Symptoms include mild persistent cough, fatigue, decreased appetite and weight loss. If left undiagnosed and untreated, heartworms can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs and may even result in death.
4. Heartworm is a progressive disease, so it’s important to treat your pet as soon as possible. But how do you do that if symptoms appear late? Every pet parent should schedule an annual heartworm test. The test requires a small blood sample from your pet and works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. If positive, further tests will be ordered and your Veterinarian will develop a tailored treatment plan.
5. Prevention is key when it comes to heartworms. The best way to avoid heartworms is through monthly preventative medicine. Be sure to speak with your Veterinarian to find out which medicine is best for your pet.
Heartworms are a serious foe for your furry friends, so play it safe and schedule an annual heartworm test for your pet today.