Heartworm is a severe disease in pets that can have lethal consequences if not treated. Cases have been reported in all 50 states, but infections seem to be most prevalent in the country’s moist, humid regions. Heartworm primarily affects dogs. However, it can also infect other mammals, such as cats and ferrets. Sadly, the average life span of untreated pets infected with heartworm is between five and seven years in dogs and about two or three years in cats.
Since it’s challenging to treat a pet that has contracted heartworm, preventing the disease is crucial. Here are some tips to help protect your beloved animal companions from getting infected with this dangerous parasite:
Your first line of defense against heartworm is a regular checkup. Never skip your periodic visit to the veterinarian to get your dog or cat examined. You can expect the doctor to review your pet’s vaccination status and order some laboratory tests. Your vet will also conduct coat and skin checks; look at their ears, eyes, and limbs; and examine their dental health. Heartworm testing is often part of this annual checkup.
All heartworm preventatives need prescriptions. You will have to visit your vet before you can buy medications for your four-legged friend. You will have the option to choose pills, topical solutions, or shots. Your vet will recommend the right one for your pet, which will depend on the type of parasites it is likely to contract, and which forms of medication would be safest.
The mosquito is currently the only recognized vector for heartworm disease transmission. The best thing you can do to prevent mosquitos is to get rid of any standing water. Without water, they can’t reproduce. You must empty water from potential breeding grounds. These include wagons, plastic toys, downspouts, plant saucers, dog bowls, sandboxes, and even small bottle caps. Note that mosquitoes generally feast on plant nectar when they’re not busy prowling for blood.
Since they spend a lot of time around tall grasses, shrubs, and bushes, find time to trim back this vegetation. Consider plants, like citronella, that naturally repel mosquitos. Remove any yard debris, such as grass clippings or piles of leaves and twigs. If these don’t produce adequate results, you may resort to professional mosquito control.
Free-roaming pets that live outdoors are at increased risk of getting infected with heartworm. Although, indoor dogs and cats aren’t risk-free either. The Food and Drug Administration has approved several medications to keep heartworm larvae from developing into adults. The American Heartworm Society highly recommends implementing year-round prevention, especially in regions where the disease is widespread. Besides, heartworm preventives for pets only have to be administered once a month. So, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to keep your furball safe and healthy.
Heartworm disease is preventable. Take your beloved pet to the vet regularly and follow his or her advice.
Learn more about heartworm prevention for pets, contact Home Sweet Home in Dallas, Texas at (972) 694-0920 to make an appointment.