If you didn’t already know it, April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. While most national days and months focus on good things, there always must be a few that focus on nasty and ugly, yet necessary things, to talk about. Heartworms are one of those topics.
What Is Heartworm?
Heartworm is commonly called heartworm disease. However, it’s really a parasite that is transmitted through mosquito bites and causes heart disease, lung disease and other organs to fail. Cats and dogs are at the highest risk of getting this parasite.
Heartworms can grow to the length of multiple feet. Imagine stuffing a ball of yarn inside your poor pets’ little heart and lungs, taking away the necessary organs they need to survive. This is why heartworm disease is taken so seriously and more awareness is needed.
What Are the Symptoms?
- Swollen ribs/sides
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent and dry cough
It is important to pay attention to these symptoms because you typically won’t find out any other way. A common myth is that a pet will just poop out the heartworm, but this is not true. Heartworms grow in the heart and lungs and because they are not found in the intestines, there is no way a pet can get rid of them.
How Is Heartworm Prevented?
The common phrase “better safe than sorry” is the best advice for dealing with heartworms. Preventative chewable medications are available for animals at risk of heartworm. The best resource is your local veterinarian. When you have a new puppy or kitten, the vet may have you give the chewable to them multiple times over a couple weeks as part of their vaccines.
Once your pet is fully vaccinated and has taken the heartworm chewables, it is good to take them in for a yearly checkup. At these checkups, if needed, you can ask for more heartworm medication. Some vets even offer a once-a-year injection.
Can You Treat Heartworm?
Simply put, yes, heartworm is treatable. But it can be difficult and hard on the animal as well as hard on your wallet. If your pet was in good health before getting heartworms, they have a better chance of surviving. The survival rate for pets who have heartworm has also gone up. The best thing to do if you suspect your pet has heartworm is to rush them to the vet so they can get diagnosed and the right medication can be administered.
Heartworm Prevention Review
- When you have a new pet, make sure you visit the vet and talk about heartworm. Ask about giving your pet preventative heartworm medication.
- Take your pet in if they have any of the five symptoms listed above. Some of the symptoms could mean your pet has another illness, but since it could be heartworm, you don’t want to risk it. You want to kill the parasite before it matures and causes damage to your pet.
- Heartworm medication can be found online and you can order it as needed to keep your beloved pet healthy and strong.
- Remember: it is better to be prepared than to make repairs.