In honor of National Heartworm Awareness Month, our team at South Shore Veterinary Hospital is debunking common heartworm myths to help pet owners understand the importance of year-round prevention. Heartworm disease can be a confusing topic, so let’s get to the truth.
Myth: Only dogs get heartworms
Truth: Heartworms can infect any mammal, including people. While dogs and wild canines are this parasite’s preferred hosts, heartworms can also infect your feline friend.
Myth: Indoor pets don’t need heartworm prevention
Truth: Mosquitoes are sneaky little pests and can easily slip inside your home, infecting your pet with heartworms. Your indoor-only cat can be infected by a mosquito that flies in an open door or a tiny hole in a window screen. Year-round heartworm prevention is a must for every pet in your home.
Myth: Heartworm disease is not a serious concern
Truth: Heartworm disease can be fatal if left untreated, yet treatment is a months-long, difficult process for dogs, and there is no heartworm treatment for cats. If your dog contracts a heartworm infection, they will be required to remain exercise-restricted throughout the process. Complications can also occur during treatment, making this disease much more serious.
Myth: Pets don’t need heartworm prevention in the winter
Truth: Mosquitoes are hardy creatures and can pop back up as soon as temperatures rise above freezing. Unpredictably warm temperatures in winter can offer mosquitoes the opportunity to infect your pet with heartworms, which makes year-round prevention essential.
Myth: I’ll know if my pet has heartworm disease
Truth: Once your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito, heartworm infection is not detectable in your pet for six months. During that time, the heartworm larvae reach adulthood as they migrate from the bite zone to the blood vessels and surround your pet’s heart and lungs. At this point only, you may notice heartworm signs, such as a mild cough or slight exercise intolerance, in your dog. Cats may show no signs but can suddenly collapse or die without warning. Without annual testing and year-round prevention, your pet may be harboring hidden heartworm infections.
Don’t leave your furry pal unprotected from heartworm disease. Call us to schedule an annual wellness exam for your pet. The exam will include a heartworm test, and we will help you stock up on the best prevention products.