If there was one little pill that could save the life of your dog or cat, wouldn’t you use it? What if the “pill” was tasty like a treat? If you answered yes! Of course! then I hope your next question is, “what is this magical medication?” The answer is Heartgard. Heartgard is a monthly oral medication that protects dogs and cats from heartworm disease. Mountain View Veterinary Services uses a simple blood test that determines if your dog has contracted heartworm disease, Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and/or ehrlichiosis,
Heartworm is transmitted through the bite from an infected mosquito. The heartworm larvae travels through the blood system until it reaches the heart and lungs. It takes approximately 6 months for larva to develop into an adult worm and begin to reproduce. If left untreated, adult heartworms continue to grow multiply causing lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries. A mosquito can bite an infected dog and pick up more larvae to transfer in the next bite on another dog or cat.
Signs of Heartworm disease can be subtle and difficult to detect until its later stages. Once the heartworms make changes to the dog’s heart, lungs, and arteries, signs of coughing, difficulty breathing, and sluggishness can develop. If left untreated, the animal can die. Treatment for heartworm disease is serious and can lead to death. That is why prevention is essential.
It is recommended that dogs stay on Heartgard year-round since mosquitoes can still be active in 50°F weather. Heartgard can be given to puppies as young as 6 weeks and weighing 5 pounds or more. Once the puppy is 6 months old, they need to be tested for heartworm disease prior to beginning prevention. Yearly screening for heartworm disease is recommended. This is to ensure the medication is working properly and provide a safety net if you happened to forget a dose during the year. If an adult dog has never had a heartworm preventative or if you have forgotten to give a dose for 2 months or more, then the dog needs to be heartworm tested prior to giving any heartworm prevention. If your dog has become infected with heartworm and the preventative is given, it can rapidly kill the adult worms and cause a blockage in the dog’s heart or lungs and lead to death. An added benefit of Heartgard is the treatment and control of hookworm and roundworm. To stop any confusion, these are intestinal parasites and heartworm is a parasite of the heart and lungs.
Cats can also get heartworm disease. Yes, even your indoor kitty! All it takes is a mosquito to slip through the door on a warm summer evening attracted to the light inside and the carbon dioxide you are emitting! Heartworm disease in cats often goes undetected because screening isn’t as thorough as it is in dogs. Hearts are smaller in cats and often only contain 1 worm. Generally, tests are looking for a specific antigen emitted by the female adult heartworm. The chances of screening a positive cat with an adult female heartworm are slim. Prevention is the best protection for your cat! Heartgard is available for cats as well as a topical, Revolution.
Heartworm disease isn’t extremely prevalent in our area and we’d like to keep it that way! We do see positive cases through rescue situations. Typically, these pets have come from the south. A mosquito can bite this southern dog and transmit heartworm to a dog that has never left the confines of his/her yard. With milder winters and increased pet travel, our pets are at risk. Prevention is simple – one chew once a month! Ask us for details!