The topic of pet parasite prevention is a hot one during the spring and summer, but not so much in the middle of what’s starting to feel like a very long winter. However, because of the heartworm life cycle (which includes a 6-month incubation period), pets who stop their medication are at risk year-round.
There are over 20 types of heartworm-carrying mosquitoes, and they’re all active at different times of the year. Fortunately, heartworm prevention is highly effective and is something that can be observed 365 days a year!
Stop the Cycle
An animal who tests positive for heartworm is a threat to all other animals in the vicinity. If a mosquito draws in their blood, the chance of spreading the disease to other unsuspecting victims is very high. Dogs are ideal hosts, but mosquitoes can infect cats, coyotes, foxes, and other wildlife.
You can stop the cycle of infection by ensuring your pet is on a year-round heartworm prevention schedule. If a heartworm-carrying mosquito does bite your pet, the microscopic worms will be killed off by the medication in the bloodstream.
A Closer Look
It takes about 6 months for a heartworm-positive dog to to actually test positive for heartworm. Again, this is due to the incubation period. Microscopic eggs are directly deposited into a pet’s bloodstream from a mosquito bite. After some time, the worms migrate to the lungs and heart, where they grow and reproduce. Only then will a heartworm test yield a positive result.
Heartworm tests are recommended every 12 months. Dogs can be treated effectively if the disease is caught early on, but there can be costly complications. Currently, there’s no treatment for heartworm in cats.
Headed for Trouble
In addition to putting pets at risk during the off-season, erratic or insufficient dosing of heartworm prevention medication may actually be contributing to a resistant strain of heartworm disease. It’s been confirmed this strain doesn’t react to prescription medications that are currently available on the market.
Most pet owners have no idea their pets are heartworm-positive, but as the pulmonary arteries become more clogged with worms, the following symptoms often become more obvious:
- Labored breathing
- Weight loss
The American Heartworm Society recommends a year-round preventive. This medication protects your pet from the effects of heartworm disease, as well as intestinal worms – both of which are possible to get throughout the year.
You may decide that oral pills are the way to go, but there are also topical medications. During your pet’s wellness exam, we can discuss the best possible options for disease prevention.
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