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Heartworm Awareness Month: Encouraging Prevention for Happy Pets

April 15, 2024

April brings Heartworm Awareness Month, along with National Brunch, Pecan, and Poetry Months. While brunch and poetry evoke joy, our focus shifts to heartworms. These harmful parasites necessitate awareness among dog owners. Westside Animal Hospital in Pooler, GA has a veterinarian offering a discussion for essential insights into heartworm prevention and protection for your furry friend.

Are Monthly Heartworm Preventatives Essential for Dogs?

To keep Fido safe, his heartworm prevention needs regular attention. The schedule hinges on the chosen product. If he’s on a monthly plan, then yes, it’s monthly. Some options now offer protection for up to 6 or 12 months.

In colder climates like Canada, owners may opt to pause medication during winter, a choice that rests with them. Nonetheless, we advocate for its continuous use, especially with temperatures on the upswing. Your Pooler, GA vet at Westside Animal Hospital can offer tailored recommendations, so don’t hesitate to seek advice.

Heartworm Season: When Dogs Are at Risk

The prevalence of mosquitoes in summer elevates the risk in most regions. Nevertheless, Fido could contract heartworms at any time. In Southern areas, the risk persists without seasonal variation.

Despite the decline in risk during northern winters, it’s not entirely eliminated, as some resilient mosquitoes withstand the cold for extended periods. Furthermore, the upward trajectory of average temperatures could amplify infection risks during winter, underscoring the need for vigilance and preventive actions by pet owners.

Where Is Heartworm Most Prevalent?

Heartworms pose a widespread danger, thriving wherever mosquitoes thrive. Cases are documented across North America, putting Fido at risk of infection throughout the US and Canada. States with the highest incidences typically experience warm, moist climates. Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and others stand out due to these environmental conditions.

Do Specific Breeds Have Greater Heartworm Susceptibility?

Heartworms can strike any dog, regardless of breed or age.

Thin-furred pups face a somewhat higher risk as mosquitoes can easily bite them. However, longhaired dogs are not exempt; even fluffy breeds remain vulnerable to heartworms.

Any Slogan for Heartworms?

The American Heartworm Society promotes Love Your Pet – Protect Their Heart.

Heartworm Figures: What Do They Tell Us?

The data reveals a rather bleak outlook.

  • Heartworms can be transmitted by over 70 mosquito breeds.
  • Female heartworms can grow to about 10 inches, while males typically reach 12 inches.
  • Their appearance is spaghetti-like. (Yuck)
  • Within mosquitoes, larvae can endure for a month.
  • It takes approximately 6 to 7 months for worms to reach adult size and start multiplying after infestation.

What Leads to Dogs Contracting Heartworms?

Heartworms aren’t transferred directly between dogs; mosquitoes serve as the intermediaries. Hence, Fido can contract them anywhere, even while relaxing in his bed. This underscores the significance of mosquito prevention to protect Fido’s health.

Essentially, the mosquito acquires heartworm larvae, referred to as microfilariae, by biting an infected dog. Upon biting another pup, it introduces the heartworms into the bloodstream, where they mature and eventually multiply.

Can Heartworms Be Treated Successfully?

Here’s both good and bad news: treatment options exist. However, the downside is their costliness and potential roughness on poor Fido. Treatment often requires strict activity curtailment to prevent heart strain in your pet. This means limiting walks and play, which may disappoint the pup. In severe cases, kenneled confinement may be necessary for your pet’s recovery from heartworms.

In severe cases, surgery might be necessary, which can be costly. Your furry friend will require close monitoring during this time.

Symptoms of Heartworm Infestations in Dogs

The manifestation of heartworm symptoms differs among dogs, often remaining latent until the worms mature, approximately six months post-infection. Early signs, such as a dry, mild cough and decreased energy levels in Fido, underscore the importance of vigilant observation for timely intervention and treatment.

Keep an eye out for these:

  • Fatigue
  • Discolored Gums
  • Weight Loss
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Breathing Issues
  • Nosebleeds
  • Persistent Coughing
  • Swollen Abdomen
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Lack Of Interest In Play

If the infestation continues, more severe symptoms will develop gradually. These could include fainting, staggering, and even heart attacks. Unfortunately, sudden death may also be a possibility.

Are Cats Susceptible to Heartworms?

Yes, cats can be afflicted by heartworms, although it’s relatively uncommon since feline bodies are less hospitable to these parasites compared to dogs. Nonetheless, it’s vital not to underestimate Fluffy’s vulnerability, as even one worm can cause permanent organ damage. Furthermore, it’s alarming that cats may show no symptoms yet suddenly die. Stay diligent with your feline friend’s preventive healthcare routine.

Can Heartworms Infect Other Animals?

Heartworms aren’t exclusive to domestic dogs; they affect all canids, including wolves, coyotes, and foxes. Additionally, cats and ferrets can be affected. Surprisingly, heartworms have even been detected in sea lions! Did you know that heartworms can also infect raccoons?

Are Humans Susceptible to Heartworms?

Indeed, humans can contract heartworm, although it’s a rare phenomenon. This rarity is attributed to distinct anatomical and biological differences from primary hosts like dogs. Consequently, the likelihood of humans developing heartworm disease is minimal. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to stay cautious, employ preventive measures, and promptly seek medical attention if exposure to heartworm is suspected, ensuring timely diagnosis and treatment.

How Do I Safeguard My Dog Against Heartworms?

Maintaining Fido’s preventive care routine is key. Moreover, you can implement strategies to ward off mosquitoes. Consider using outdoor mosquito repellent devices or applying pet-safe mosquito repellent sprays. Did you know that keeping your pet indoors during peak mosquito activity times can also reduce their exposure? Enhancing your property to attract pollinators and bats is helpful. Fun fact: A single bat can consume up to 600 mosquitoes in just one night! Prevent mosquito breeding by eliminating standing water; be sure to empty containers like buckets and plant pots after rainfall.

What Can Happen If I Fail to Give My Dog Preventative Care?

Before resuming preventative care, ensure your canine companion undergoes another round of testing. This step is vital because preventive products don’t eliminate live worms. If your pet is already infested, preventive measures won’t shield them from existing worms. Seek guidance from your veterinarian at Westside Animal Hospital in Pooler, GA for comprehensive assistance.

What’s the Recommended Testing Interval for Heartworm in Dogs?

While annual heartworm tests are sufficient for most dogs, some may require more frequent screenings. It’s important to note that certain dogs are at a higher risk. For example, spending time around other dogs increases your pet’s exposure. Interestingly, heartworms can be transmitted by mosquitoes, even without direct contact with an infected dog.

Is Heartworm Frequency Growing?

Yes, unfortunately, heartworm prevalence is increasing. Similar to antibiotic resistance, some heartworms are developing resistance to preventive treatments. Moreover, the widespread adoption and transport of dogs between regions have contributed to the escalating numbers. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina saw a surge in dog adoptions from the South, inadvertently spreading heartworms. Louisiana’s warm and humid climate makes it a heartworm hotspot, resulting in elevated cases that extended to northern regions.

Nevertheless, there’s no need for alarm. Just ensure you stay diligent with your dog’s preventative care regimen and keep an eye out for any symptoms. If you observe anything unusual, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinary clinic.

Plan a Visit to Your Animal Hospital

Is your dog overdue for heartworm medication? Has Fido missed an appointment? Don’t worry; contact us, the Westside Animal Hospital, anytime for assistance.

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