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What Pet Owners Should Know About Heartworm

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Heartworms are parasitic worms that can grow inside pets like cats and dogs, leading to serious health problems. It is important to know the best ways to prevent heartworm infection, and what to do if it does occur.

What is a heartworm?

Heartworm is a parasitic worm that lives in the lungs and heart of cats and dogs. It can be spread through mosquito bites, and if untreated, it can lead to:

• Heart failure

• Respiratory complications

• Permanent damage to organs 

• Sudden death

How can pet owners prevent heartworm?

Pet owners should take the following steps to prevent the spread of heartworm:

• Consult a veterinarian about your pet’s risk for heartworm and what type of prevention is best.

• Administer monthly preventive treatments prescribed by your veterinarian. These commonly include medication, oral tablets, or topical applications.

• Test your pet for heartworm regularly, typically once a year or more frequently if infection is suspected.

• Reduce the number of mosquitoes in and around your home to reduce the risk of transmission.

What should pet owners do if they suspect their pet has heartworm?

If you suspect that your pet may have heartworm, it is important to take them to a veterinarian immediately for testing. Once a pet is exhibiting signs of heartworm, it is likely that the disease has progressed and they will need treatment right away.

Your veterinarian will likely do a physical exam and blood tests to check for the presence of heartworm larvae. If your pet tests positive, they may need medication or hospitalization depending on the severity of the case.

Contact Your Veterinarian Today

Your veterinarian can help you determine the best way to prevent heartworm in your pet. Take the time to talk to them about prevention and regular testing, and be sure to take your pet in for an annual checkup.