April is heartworm awareness month in the veterinary world, and this gives us the opportunity to educate pet owners on this potentially deadly parasite that can affect pets in any state of the U.S.
Unfortunately, many pet owners still don't realize the dangers associated with heartworms or understand that this mosquito-borne disease can be entirely prevented. This is what you need to know about heartworm prevention.
What Are Heartworms?
Heartworms are arguably one of the most dangerous of all parasites that can affect our pets. These worms, which can grow up to a foot in length, live in the lungs, heart, and associated blood vessels of your pet. In doing so, they prevent her blood from flowing around her body and reaching her essential organs as they should. This causes organ damage along with a number of unpleasant and debilitating symptoms. Eventually, if the heartworm infection isn't treated, the number of worms in her body can become so large that blood flow becomes blocked entirely. This is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate surgical removal of the worms. While it is possible to treat heartworms before the infestation becomes too severe, treatment isn't without risks and potential consequences. It is also extensive progress that can see your pet is restricted from exercise and suffering a reaction to the death of the heartworms, making her unhappy and unwell.
The good news is that there is no need for your pet to suffer from a heartworm infection. There are many different preventatives now available, and when they are administered correctly, they can keep your pet safe from heartworms all year round.
Types of Heartworm Preventative
Heartworm disease is primarily prevented using one of a number of different treatments. These are all only available on prescription from a licensed veterinarian. They are administered in several different ways, including:
Chewable tablets. These can be hidden in your pet's food so that she eats them unawares. Some are beef or bacon-flavored and naturally tasty so that pets will happily eat them without them needing to be hidden. Oral preventatives such as these are usually required monthly.
Topical ointments. Much like flea and tick preventatives, these are spot-on style treatments that are placed onto your pet's body, usually between her shoulder blades so that she can't lick it off. Like oral solutions, topical treatments must be administered monthly.
Injectable treatment. There is one preventative that can be injected. Unlike other treatments, this injectable solution is effective for six months at a time. However, it can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian and cannot be done at home.
Although there are some products that only protect your pet against heartworms, there are many others that are known as combination preventatives. This is because they also keep the pet that they are given to safe from other types of parasites including ticks, fleas, mites, and other worms. Your vet will be able to help you determine which is the best type of preventative to protect your precious pet from a heartworm infection.
Our experienced and knowledgeable staff at Wilkinson Animal Hospital understand the importance of heartworm prevention and are ready and waiting to help you ensure that your pet is adequately protected. To book an appointment at our animal hospital in Gastonia, NC, please call us today at (704) 824-9876.