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How To Protect Your Pet From Heartworm Disease

Protect Your Dog or Cat from Heartworm Disease

Veterinarian with a happy dog

Heartworm disease is caused by actual worms, which infest the hearts and pulmonary arteries of those affected. It is spread only by mosquitoes, which pick up infectious microfilariae from already-infected animals. These microfilariae undergo a short development phase inside the mosquitoes, becoming tiny larvae. The larvae are transmitted when the mosquito bites another animal.

When Can Heartworm be Transmitted?

Transmission can happen during any time that mosquitoes are active. For northern areas, this is spring, summer, and fall. In the South, this is all year round, or close enough to it that the risk is never truly over. Because of the connection with mosquitoes, preventive treatment takes place during these active-mosquito seasons.

What Can be Done to Protect Your Pet?

Because mosquitoes can get into houses fairly easily, avoidance is not an effective strategy for heartworm prevention. Instead, medications for heartworm prevention are given. These meds often come in the form of tasty "treats" that pets will readily accept. This makes prevention much easier than heartworm treatment.

What is Required Before Starting Preventive Medication?

A heartworm test is required before preventives can be prescribed. In dogs, this is a simple blood test done at the veterinary clinic. It looks for antibodies to heartworms. For cats, testing is more complex. Though an antibody test is typically given, it isn't as accurate as it is for dogs. Therefore, cats may get chest X-rays or other imaging done as well.

How Does Dosing Work?

Typically, heartworm medication is dosed just once per month. It's easy to remember to give a dose if you mark the day for each month of your calendar at once.

Do Heartworm Preventives Protect Against Other Parasites?

Many modern heartworm preventives also include medicines that protect against intestinal parasites or provide flea and tick prevention. Ask your vet whether one of these options will be right for your species and breed of pet.

Contact Our Charlotte Veterinarian Today

To get started on getting your dog or cat the protection it needs against heartworm, just make an appointment with us here at Hickory Grove Animal Hospital in Charlotte, NC. We'll be glad to help you keep your pet parasite-free.


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