What Is Your Heartworm Awareness Level?
April is National Heartworm Awareness Month
Hill Country Animal Hospital wants to increase your heartworm awareness level and make sure you understand how important keeping your pet on heartworm prevention really is.
How Are Heartworms Transmitted?
Heartworms are transmitted to your dog or cat via mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected by biting a dog or cat that has heartworm disease and then can spread heartworms to subsequent dogs or cats that they bite. Dogs are a natural host for heartworms and that is why most of the emphasis is on prevention and treatment in dogs. Cats can be a host but they are an atypical host.
Once the animal has been infected, heartworms grow to about a foot long and live in the heart and lungs of the infected animal. In the dog they mate and reproduce and ultimately cause extensive damage to the heart and lungs and then eventually major organs. If left untreated, this condition will usually result in death.
Here are some statistics
- Did you know that 1 in 27 Bexar County dogs tested for heartworms in 2017 tested positive?
- Did you know that all the states from (and including) Texas to the east coast are considered “high risk” states for dogs to contract heartworm disease? Heartworms have been found in all 50 states so prevention is key especially when living in endemic areas like the southeast United States. Visit this interactive map provided by CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council) to see the incidence of Heartworm disease in our state and county.
- Did you know that you cannot tell if a dog has heartworm disease just by looking at them? Dogs don’t display any outward signs until the disease is well established. This is why annual testing is so important.
- Treatment is hard on your dog. Prevention is easier and less expensive than treatment. Sometimes treatment is necessary and when it is we are here to provide that for your dog, caring for him like he was ours.
- Did you know that regardless of whether or not your dog lives indoors, he is still at risk? Mosquitoes transmit heartworms and this is why even indoor dogs are at risk. Indoor dogs go outside to use the bathroom and mosquitoes come into our homes leaving your dog at risk without heartworm prevention.
Why test every year?
It is important to test your dog every year for heartworms. We include a heartworm test in our annual wellness testing because we want your dog to be protected.
- Mistakes can happen. Even the most conscientious pet owner can forget to give a dose now and again. Don’t be embarrassed; it happens to the best of us. The best thing to do is to tell your veterinarian so that he or she can make a plan to ensure your dog stays protected.
- So you haven’t missed giving any doses that you know of, but what about your dog? Do you know that he didn’t spit out the pill while you weren’t looking? Or that he didn’t go outside and vomit the pill? If you use a topical, are you sure you applied it correctly each time and that it was completely absorbed? These reasons leave your pet a little less protected than you think and are all good reasons for annual testing.
- There is also the rare but all too real scenario that there is a manufacturer recall on your heartworm prevention. It has happened and unfortunately there is little that you can do about it but testing every year will keep your pet protected. It will also allow your veterinarian to make sure your dog is on the safest prevention if he or she does test positive. Yes, there are some preventions that are safer to use if a dog tests positive for heartworms, and we can make a plan with you to make sure that your dog is getting all necessary treatment to keep him safe.
What About Cats?
Because cats are an atypical host for heartworms, the heartworms themselves rarely survive in cats to the adult stage. This means that most cats have immature heartworms and may only have 1-3 actual worms. These immature worms can definitely cause damage and can result in HARD, Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease. The most unfortunate part is that no current treatment exists for cats diagnosed with heartworm disease. The medication used in dogs cannot be used in cats so prevention is our most important tool.
To learn more about heartworms and heartworm disease visit The American Heartworm Society.
Protect your pets!
Take advantage of our rebates on heartworm prevention and flea prevention (from the makers of Heartgard)
Buy Heartgard only – Buy 12 doses and get $12 rebate
Buy Heartgard and Nexgard – Buy 12 doses of Heartgard AND 12 doses of Nexgard and get a $50 rebate. You also get a free dose of each (while supplies last).
Nexgard – Your pet’s first dose is free so you can try it to see if you like it.
Buy Nexgard only – Buy 6 doses and get 1 free.