Heartworm disease can have a devastating effect on your pet's health. National Heartworm Awareness Month, observed annually in April, reminds pet owners about the health dangers this preventable d ...View Article
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We offer a full line of heartworm and flea preventatives in our hospital. We offer some of the lowest prices in the area and will price match with Petmeds.com!
Due to the heat and humidity in Florida, we must deal with a major problem - mosquitoes! There are over 80 different mosquito species living in Florida and the Southeastern United States. Mosquitoes are the main vector for many diseases, one of which is Heartworm Disease.
What is Heartworm Disease? - Heartworms are transferred from one host to the next via mosquito bite. The mosquito bites an infected host for a meal where it picks up microfilaria from the blood. The microfilaria molts inside the mosquito into the infectious stage, which is then transmitted to a new host during a blood meal. These infectious stages travel to the heart, then undergo numerous molts to become an adult heartworm. The final resting place of the heartworm is inside the pulmonary arteries of your dog's heart where it can live and produce microfilaria for up to 5-7 years! Cats can also be affected, but generally at a lower rate and with fewer adult worms. However, symptoms in cats are often worse and adult heartworms are not safely treatable in that species. Cats often die from heartworm disease!
How are my animals tested? – There are a few ways that we can test for heartworms. We can look under a microscope to see the microfilaria in the blood, but we are not guaranteed to find them. For at risk patients (i.e. dogs not on heartworm preventative), we can use more sensitive testing via serology. Also, our outside lab automatically includes heartworm testing for all levels of annual bloodwork! Other tests like X-Ray and Ultrasound can also be done as an aide to determine the presence of heartworms and the severity of disease.
What does Heartworm Disease affect? - Besides causing heart failure and lung disease, heartworms can also affect liver and kidney function, cause autoimmune disease, and generally deteriorate you pet's quality of life. One of the most common initial symptoms in cats is sudden death!
How is Heartworm Disease Treated? - After the initial positive test, your pet is placed on a heartworm treatment protocol of strict rest and decreased activity. A series of oral medications and Immiticide (the only available approved drug for the treatment of adult heartworm infections) injections are given over a 3-4 month period. Your pet is placed on heartworm prevention (Heartgard Plus) throughout the treatment. A few months after the end of treatment, a heartworm test is repeated to verify a negative result. If the test remains positive, another round of Immiticide is done, followed by further testing.
Monthly Heartworm Prevention - Several types of monthly heartworm prevention can be purchased through our hospital. Most commonly for dogs, a small chewable tablet is given once every month. Especially in cats, a topical medication is more commonly used. In Florida, it is imperative that prevention is given throughout the year and for the lifespan of your dog (or cat). Heartworm preventives almost always include an intestinal dewormer as an additional ingredient. Many now include flea prevention. They are usually purchased in 6-12 month packs (but may be purchased singly), as it is important for your animal's health to keep them up to date. It is recommended to wait for an up-to-date negative heartworm test before administering preventative to your pet.
Myths and Facts: