StoneRidge_iStock_000083477921_LargeIf there was tagline for heartworm disease, it would be: “It only takes one bite.”

Unfortunately, many pet owners take a risk when it comes to heartworm. In addition, Texas ranks among the top 10 states where heartworm disease is most prevalent. Since heartworm can predispose your pet to life-threatening health issues, prevention is something that should be on the mind of every pet owner.

Understanding Heartworm Disease

Heartworms are thin, spaghetti-like organisms that invade the heart, lungs, and arteries. Although commonly viewed as a canine-specific disease, heartworm can infect cats and other animals. It just happens that domestic dogs and their wild cousins (coyotes) are more susceptible to infection.

Heartworm disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquito transfers tiny parasites, known as microfilariae, to the host animal. As the disease progresses, these microscopic worms develop into larvae, which mature into heartworms. Once grown, adults continue to reproduce and create more microfilariae, sometimes for years if the disease remains undetected.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

Clinical symptoms often do not catch the eye of pet owners until the disease is quite severe. Symptoms associated with heartworm can include:

  • Coughing
  • Decreased interest in exercise
  • Lethargy
  • Labored breathing
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss

When left untreated, heartworms can compromise the circulatory and respiratory systems. This can eventually lead to cardiac arrest, liver failure, kidney failure, blood clots, and numerous other emergencies.

Preventing Heartworm in Your Pet

Some owners opt out of parasite preventives hoping to save a little money. However, prevention is far more cost effective (not to mention, safer for your pet). Treating heartworm disease is a complex process that may involve surgery, which would exceed the cost of regular preventives. To assist pet owners, our team always tries to source the best prices on these important monthly medications.

In addition to a monthly preventive, it’s important that your pet be screened and examined each year for heartworm and other parasites. This not only protects your pet, it also protects you and your family from zoonotic diseases (illnesses that can be transmitted to humans).

Other ways to combat pests this spring include:

  • Removing standing water from your yard, including bird baths and plastic pools
  • Avoiding active pest hours, which generally occur around dawn and dusk
  • Checking your pet’s skin daily for fleas and ticks
  • Cutting back tall grasses and weeds  
  • Keeping trash bins in a garage to deter wildlife (which carry parasites)

Although we live in a region rife with mosquitoes, there are ways to protect your pet and keep him or her safe. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.