We are heartbroken every time we have to diagnose heartworm disease in a beloved pet. Prevention is key when battling heartworm disease, and we simply cannot preach that enough.

But some clients want to know– what exactly is it that they are preventing? They know it’s not a good diagnosis, but often don’t understand how severe it can be or what it even is.

We put together a quick reference guide to give clients a better understanding of the disease and why we are always shouting “PREVENTATIVES!” from the rooftops.

So, first up– let’s define what heartworm disease is and how our pets can get it:

Heartworm disease is a potentially deadly parasitic disease. Once dogs and cats get it, the parasites grow (to roughly a foot long! Gross) and begin to wreak havoc on the heart and lungs, which can lead to lung disease, heart failure, and issues with other organs in the body. These parasites reside and are commonly passed on by a common warmer-weather nemesis: the mosquito. The mosquito population remains fairly large in warmer climates especially (lookin’ at you, Southern Cali), but they can carry heartworms year-round in any climate, so protection is important.

Now that you know what these irksome parasites are, you should familiarize yourself with the clinical signs. If your pet contracts heartworm disease, catching it early is crucial to treatment options.

The signs in dogs are:

  • Fatigue, or sudden disinterest in normal activity.
  • Appetite decrease.
  • Persisting cough.
  • Weight loss.
  • No sign at all! This is why regular testing is so important.

*Note: These are early-stage signs. Advanced heartworm can lead to heart failure, blocked blood flow, and/or a swollen belly.

The signs in cats are:

  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing
  • No sign at all! Again, consult with your veterinarian to find out how frequently you should test your pet.

How can I prevent this awfulness from happening to my pet?

The best way to treat heartworm is– PREVENTING IT! While there are treatment options for dogs, they can involve a long and stressful process. For cats, there are no currently approved treatment options, so prevention is the way to go.

Monthly heartworm preventatives are easy to administer, and not that expensive! You can get them from your veterinarian after a negative heartworm test is performed on your pet, and you should remember to give them monthly. Seriously, set your reminder in your calendar now, because these are an easy and effective way to make sure your pet NEVER has to deal with this often-fatal disease.

We never want to see your pets miss out on adventures with you because of a disease like heartworm. If you have any questions, want to schedule a test, or need preventatives, contact us here!