Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in dogs in all 50 states, yet a few misconceptions still circulate about this parasitic condition. The best way to keep your furry friend safe from this disease transmitted through mosquito bites is to separate fact from fiction. Learn from the following common myths about heartworm disease in pets.
Myth: I’ll know if my pet has heartworm disease.
Fact: Unlike some intestinal worms, you cannot see heartworm evidence in your pet’s stool. In many cases, you won’t realize your pet has heartworm disease until the condition has advanced. Testing won’t pick up heartworm presence for six months after your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito, as the immature worms take that long to reach adulthood when they can be detected on a heartworm test. During this time, the immature worms are scarring your pet’s vasculature surrounding her heart and lungs. Without year-round prevention, and annual heartworm testing, you may not realize your pet has been affected with heartworms until too late, and a cough, exercise intolerance, heart failure, and abdominal fluid buildup occur.
Myth: Cats can’t get heartworm disease.
Fact: Many people pair heartworm disease with dogs, but all mammals can be infected, including cats. While heartworms prefer canine hosts, they can still create a massive inflammatory response in cats, causing respiratory disease, and sometimes sudden death. No approved heartworm treatment is available for cats, and only supportive nursing care can be provided, so all cats, including indoor-only kitties, should be kept on year-round heartworm prevention, to avoid this tragedy.
Myth: There’s no need to provide my pet with heartworm prevention in the winter.
Fact: More than likely, you’ve found an insect inside your home during frigid winter months, which means no place is safe from blood-sucking parasites. As temperatures cool down, some bugs hibernate, some die off, and some seek shelter inside your cozy home. Also, mosquitoes are opportunistic pests and will take advantage of a slight warm-up, emerging to infect your pet with heartworms as soon as the temperatures rise above freezing. Since winter weather patterns can be unpredictable, with no guarantee of a solid month below freezing, the best way to keep your pet safe is with a year-round heartworm preventive.
Be sure to contact your veterinarian about prevention options for your pet.