Bug Off! Why Pets Need Year-Round Heartworm Prevention
For many of us, mosquitoes are only troublesome in the spring and summer…right? Well, scratch that (pun intended)! The risks associated with mosquitoes and other parasites are present 365 days a year, making year-round heartworm prevention essential.
The Perils of Pesky Mosquitoes
Sure, mosquitoes are annoying, but they also transmit heartworm disease, which can be fatal to our pets. Heartworms invade the vital organs, most notably the arteries around the heart and lungs.
The life cycle of a heartworm begins when a mosquito bites an infected dog, coyote, fox, or other animal. Because heartworm cannot be transmitted without a mosquito, animals cannot pass the infection to one another through direct contact.
Once bitten, the host becomes infected with microfilariae (miniscule worms). The microfilariae then enter the bloodstream and develop into larvae, typically within a few weeks.
These larvae continue to migrate through the veins and arteries until they reach the heart and lungs, where they grow into adulthood. Adult heartworms resemble cooked spaghetti and can be up to one foot long. Left alone, a pet can become infected with hundreds of heartworms.
Symptoms of heartworm infection include:
- Persistent cough
- Unusual lethargy/tires easily
- Lack of interest in exercise
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
Unfortunately, many pets do not display overt symptoms and can live with an infection for months or even years before problems become apparent. This is particularly true for felines, which is why the disease poses a more severe threat to cat companions.
Heartworm Prevention is Key
Although you can take certain precautions, such as eliminating weeds and standing water in your yard, the only guarantee for your pet is a monthly preventive. Just be sure to have your companion screened beforehand. If your pet has missed even one month of protection, he or she may already be infected. Medications used to prevent heartworm can be harmful if administered to a pet who already has the disease.
Mosquitoes can be an itchy annoyance, but the worst-case scenario will not be a problem when heartworm prevention is the focus.
To schedule an appointment or to get more information about heartworm disease and your pet, please contact our team.
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Schertz Animal Hospital
Since 1976, Schertz Animal Hospital has offered the greater San Antonio area outstanding pet care. Our state-of-the-art animal hospital in Schertz, TX compliments our stress-free handling and experienced veterinary staff. Make an appointment online or give us a call at (210) 659-0345 today!