April is Heartworm Awareness Month

By on April 5, 2014

If you’ve got a pet, heartworm prevention should be atop your list for you and your animals as far as healthy living goes. It just so happens that April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, so we’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a bit about the disease and urge you to do your due diligence as a responsible pet owner.

The best resource for finding out about prevention and treatment of heartworm, and one we’ve leaned on here, is the American Heartworm Society. We’ll provide you with some information and tips here, but if you’d like, check out their Web site here.  There is also an online movement called Wags 4 Hope which advocates for the prevention of heartworm which we’ll highlight below.

First, what exactly is heartworm? The American Heartworm Society says that it is an infection that takes place when a mosquito carrying infective, microscopic-size heartworm larvae bites into an animal for a blood meal. The larvae then actively migrate into the new host and develop further as they travel through the subcutaneous tissue in the cat’s body. At about 3-4 months, they usually settle into the arteries and blood vessels of the lungs, where they continue to develop to sexual mature male and female worms.

It sounds awful and that’s because it is awful. Heartworm can be uncomfortable for pets, mostly dogs, but cats and other mammals are susceptible also. Heartworm can cause severe illness and even death.

Secondly, how does one know if his or her pet is affected by the disease? A routine check-in with the vet and proper medication can prevent the disease from taking hold, but if you don’t take these steps, here is what you can expect to see from your animal should the disease infiltrate your animal’s system (from the AHS):

Acute Chronic
collapse coughing
dyspnea vomiting
convulsions dyspnea
diarrhea/vomiting lethargy
blindness anorexia
tachycardia weight loss
syncope chylothorax
sudden death

None of that sounds fun, does it? Lastly, and this should be your first priority when thinking about your pets and Heartworm, here’s how to prevent your animal from acquiring the disease:

  • Visit your veterinarian regularly for check-ups
  • Provide your animal with heartworm medication as prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Watch for signs (per above) of acute and chronic affliction and consult your vet whenever suspicion arises

You can get heartworm medication in a number of places; namely, from your vet’s office and online through trusted vendors. We would suggest that you see your vet first to make sure you are using the correct preventative care methods. Once you know what meds and when you should give them to give your pet, you can often find products online. Frankly, because we care about our pets so much, simply consult your vet each time your medication needs to be administered- that’s our advice. There are a number of tests that should be completed before giving meds to your pets, so just go see your pet doctor when you should.

Wags 4 Hope is a non-profit organization started by a woman who had a terrible and heart-churning experience with heartworm and its affect on her animals. A few years ago, Annie Blumenfeld got a dog. She was elated, like all of us when we find that special pet. After an initial veterinary check, however, it was discovered that the new friend had heartworm. Because treatment is limited and very expensive, she was unable to keep her pet alive. A story like this would inspire anyone to spread the word about heartworm and that’s exactly what Annie took on as her mission in life.

She set up Wags 4 Hope, a Web site that educates, raises awareness and provides information about the disease, its prevention and treatment. Click here if you’d like to visit her site.

Knowing the grave result of her story, and countless others around the world, that should be enough to capture your attention and take action, but we’re here to give you a little reminder. April is Heartworm Awareness Month and you should now not only be aware, but should be ready to step up and take action for your pets.


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