Does my pet need Heartworm Prevention?

“Is your pet staying current on their heartworm and flea prevention?”  That’s a question we always ask when your pet comes in for their yearly exam and it’s an important one.  Here in Sarasota we have mosquitoes year round and they always have the potential to transmit heartworms to our pets.  Because heartworm disease rarely affects people most don’t know why this disease is so important to prevent in our pets. 

Life Cycle Basics

When a mosquito feeds on an infected animal it picks up baby heartworms (microfilaria).  Once in the mosquito, these babies mature into their next infective life stage.  If this mosquito then lands on another animal and bites, the baby heartworms are then transmitted to the next animal.  These baby heartworms make their way into the bloodstream and mature into adult heartworms.  

What happens after the adults form?

Once heartworms reach the adult life stage they stay in the blood vessels important for heart and lung function.  This can cause symptoms such as persistent cough, fatigue, and changes in appetite.  As the number of adult heartworms increases so does the severity of the symptoms including sudden death.

Can cats get heart disease?

Absolutely!  Unfortunately there is no treatment for cats with heart disease so it is even more important to prevent infection.  

How do I know if my pet has heartworm disease?

We recommend annual heartworm testing as a part of your pet’s annual physical exam with us.  This is a simple blood test that is ready in less than 10 minutes.

So What Can I do to Prevent Heartworm Disease?

We are fortunate to have many different options available to prevent this deadly disease from affecting our pets.  For our canine friends we have monthly chewables, monthly topical medications, and even a once a year injection for complete protection.  For our feline friends we have monthly chewables and monthly topical medications.  

My pets stay indoors for most of the day so do they need it?

Absolutely!  It would be great if there were a barrier to protect our yards and homes from mosquitoes but unfortunately none exist.  All it takes is one pesky mosquito to bite and infect your pet.  That’s it.  Just one.  That means that all it takes is one mosquito to make it inside or just one mosquito to bite our pups when they take a quick bathroom break.

I don’t like giving my pet medication.  Is it safe?

Fortunately there are multiple different products available for our doctors to choose from when making medication recommendations for your pets. This allows us to make the best decision for the health and safety of your pet.