There are many different parasites that can affect our beloved animals. When we become pet parents, we become responsible for all aspects of their care, including keeping them safe from harmful, preventable diseases including those caused by parasites. One of the most dangerous parasites that can affect cats and dogs is heartworm.
Here is what you need to know about heartworms, what they mean for your pet, and what you can and should do to keep your fur-family fully protected from this lethal parasite.
Heartworms are an internal parasite. This means that they live inside your pet’s body, and more specifically, in the blood vessels of her heart and lungs. Unlike other types of worms, which are spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected animal, heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos who transfer larvae from host to host. Once your pet is infected, it takes around six months for the larvae to be transmitted through the bloodstream to the blood vessels that they will call home. During this time, the larvae are also maturing into adult heartworms that can reproduce. An adult heartworm can grow up to 12 inches in length. Although very thin, as their numbers grow, the heartworms can begin to prevent the normal flow of blood around your pet’s body – something which can cause damage to their organs. Dogs can be severely affected and in serious cases, can play host to several hundred heartworms. Cats, although not a natural host of heartworms, can still become infected and suffer anaphylaxis reactions leading to death.
Symptoms of Heartworms
As you might expect, the more heartworms your dog has, the greater the effect on their health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, the symptoms of heartworms are very mild and easily overlooked. They also don’t become apparent until any heartworm larvae have matured – so at least six months after infection.
Heartworm Signs to Look Out for Include:
- A soft, persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Reluctance to exercise
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
As the number of heartworms grows, blood flow in your pet’s body becomes increasingly compromised until there is irreversible damage to their organs. Compromised body functions, organ failure and then death are inevitable unless treatment is sought very quickly.
Choosing the Right Heartworm Prevention
With a wide variety of different preventative medications available, trying to find the right one for your pet can feel overwhelming. This is where your veterinary team proves invaluable. With extensive knowledge and experience, they will be able to recommend which heartworm preventative is most suitable for your pet, as well as explain the importance of making sure that you administer the preventative on the recommended schedule. Being just a few days late with your chosen treatment could leave your pet vulnerable to being bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworms.
There are predominantly two types of preventatives to choose from. These include single products that only prevent heartworms and combination preventatives that also protect your pet against other types of parasites such as fleas, ticks, or other parasitic worms. Many owners find combination preventatives more cost-effective and convenient.
ProHeart12 is an injectable preventative, rather than being taken orally. One injection will protect your dog for an entire year! For many owners, the peace of mind of longer protection makes this product a great option. Every veterinarian and team member at West Rome Animal Clinic trusts and uses ProHeart12 for their own pets.
Heartworm Prevention for Pets in West Rome, GA
If you would like advice on choosing the right heartworm prevention for your pet, our knowledgeable veterinary team would be happy to help. Please contact us today to speak to us or to arrange an appointment online.