Vet Blog

Understanding Heartworm Prevention

April 30, 2019

We love our pets as much as the human members of our family.

Unfortunately, just like us, it is possible for our pets to become sick. There are lots of different illnesses and health problems that can affect them, some of which are caused by parasites. Heartworms are one of the most concerning all parasite infections. Although heartworms primarily affect dogs, it is also possible for cats and ferrets to contract a heartworm infection. Spread by mosquitos, heartworms live inside your pet's body, using his blood as their food source. However, if your pet isn't properly protected, a heartworm infection could cost him his life.

Understanding heartworm prevention is essential if you are to keep your pet safe from this debilitating and deadly disease. Here is what you need to know.

Why Preventing Heartworms Is so Important

Many people mistakenly believe that the main reason to prevent a parasite is to stop them deriving their nutrition at the expense of your pet. While this is certainly one reason to keep your adorable animal safe from these parasitic worms, it is the other effects on his health and wellbeing that can be more significant in the case of heartworms. This is because heartworms live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of your pet.

Just like humans, our pets rely on their hearts and lungs to keep them alive and functioning. When they become compromised by parasites, they don't work as well as they should. This can cause problems such as coughing, shortness of breath, and lethargy. Oxygenated blood cannot flow around the body as well as it should, and this causes damage to your pet's organs. Eventually, if the number of worms becomes too great, blood flow can potentially be completely blocked. Animals who have heartworms who are not treated will almost certainly do. Although there is an approved treatment for dogs, cats and ferrets can also be affected and for them, there is no treatment.

It Is Impossible to Tell Which Mosquitos Carry Heartworm and Which Don't

Although there are only around 30 types of mosquitos capable of carrying heartworm larvae, these buzzy blighters are so small and super-fast it would be impossible to see which variety has bitten your pet. In fact, you will almost certainly never see it coming. Some pets develop a mark or irritation at the site of the bite a short while after, but we can pretty much guarantee you won't see the mosquito responsible for infecting your furbaby. This is one of the reasons why adequate heartworm prevention is essential.

Heartworm Prevention Is Necessary for All Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets

One of the most important things to understand about heartworm prevention is that it is recommended for all at-risk animals irrespective of their geographical location. They may be more prevalent in the south where the climate is warmer, but mosquitos can survive in much cooler temperatures than most people expect. In fact, heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. This means that there is nowhere that is considered a 'safe zone', and instead it is much safer for your pet to ensure that he is properly protected against heartworms all year around wherever you live.

Choosing the Proper Heartworm Preventative

Fortunately, there are lots of heartworm preventatives to choose from. They can only be prescribed by a licensed vet, so you will need to make sure your vet in Nashville, TN is on board with your choice before you can obtain it. Contrary to popular belief, they are not all tablets. Although there are chewable pills available, other heartworm prevention types include topical spot-on ointments or even injections. Your vet will be happy to help you decide which is the best choice for your furbaby.

Heartworm Prevention Must Be Administered on a Strict Schedule

Preventatives are extremely successful provided they are given on time. Each is only effective for an approximate duration before it must be given again. In most instances, this is 30 days. For this reason, when you speak to your vet in Nashville, TN about heartworm prevention, they will almost certainly explain to you the importance of making sure each dose is administered on time in line with the manufacturer's instructions. Even being just a day or two late with a dose could potentially put your pet at risk of developing a heartworm infection.

If you have any further questions about heartworm prevention and would like the advice of a friendly, knowledgeable professional, please get in touch with our veterinarians in Nashville, TN at (615) 262-0415 and our experienced team would be delighted to help.