April is heartworm awareness month, so to mark the occasion, we’re going to have a pop quiz!
Everyone take out a piece of paper and number it 1-10.
This is a “True/False” test. No cheating!
Question 1: Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and it only takes one bite from a mosquito to transmit the disease to an unprotected pet.
Question 2: Dogs and cats are both susceptible to heartworms.
Question 3: Symptoms of advanced heartworm disease in dogs and cats include coughing, lethargy, and trouble breathing.
Question 4: There is no cure for heartworm disease.
Question 5: It is easy and relatively inexpensive to prevent heartworms.
Question 6: Only pets who spend a lot of time outside are at risk for heartworms
Question 7: Unless you live in a warmer climate such as in one of the southern states, you probably don’t have to worry about giving your pet a heartworm preventative every month. Just the spring and summer months (April – August ) is a good rule of thumb.
Question 8: If one animal in the household gets heartworm disease all other animals in the household will get it.
Question 9: Even if a dog has been on regular heartworm preventative, it’s important to have an annual heartworm test. But cats are different.
Question 10: If you miss a dose of heartworm preventative medication, you can just double up on the next month’s dose.
Okay. Now you can grade your own papers.
Answer 1: TRUE. It only takes one bite from any common mosquito carrying heartworm larvae to infect an unprotected pet. And if left untreated, it will create permanent damage to your pet’s heart and lungs that often results in death. A regular heartworm preventative will protect your pets from infections. Ask your veterinarian about the various preventatives that are available.
Answer 2: TRUE. Both species are at risk for developing heartworm disease, which is why a year-round preventative is recommended for both.
Answer 3: TRICK QUESTION. While the symptoms listed are common in dogs, cats often do not show any symptoms or they show symptoms that are similar to a variety of other common issues. In fact, heartworm disease in cats can be significantly different from dogs. Cat owners should talk to their veterinarian about how this disease manifests and evolves. Currently, there is no approved heartworm treatment (cure) for heartworm disease in cats.
Answer 4: FALSE… KIND OF. While it depends on the severity of the infection when it is discovered, most cases can be treated. However, treatment is not easy for the animal and it is not cheap for the owner. Treatment usually involves a series of injections over the course of several weeks to kill the worms, but there are potential painful and frightening side-effects for the animal as well. Careful monitoring during the treatment cycle is important. And since there is currently no approved treatment for cats, year-round preventative is imperative.
Answer 5: TRUE. There are a few different options for preventing heartworms in dogs and cats, but the most common is a monthly heartworm preventative that comes in the form of a chewable “pill” disguised as a pet treat. The cost depends on the weight of the animal, but in general, it ranges between $5-$15/month. Compared to the cost of treating a dog who has become infected with heartworms ($800-$1500 or more if complications arise), this is a bargain! As we say at Total Veterinary Care®, it is always cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it.
Answer 6: FALSE: Have you ever woken up to find you’ve been bitten by a mosquito while you were asleep in your own room? If a mosquito found its way into your house to bite you, it can find its way into your house to bite your pet. And if that mosquito is carrying heartworm larvae, well, your pet has just been infected. All dogs, cats, and ferrets need to be on a year-round heartworm preventative. Your veterinarian can help you determine which option is best for your pet.
Answer 7: FALSE! While mosquitoes do go dormant during the colder months, it is easy for them to become active again quickly. All it will take is a short, unseasonable warm spell in the middle of winter. In addition, they can also survive all year in areas of the house that are damp and warm– basements, attics, crawl spaces, etc. Again, it’s not worth the risk of stopping treatment during the winter months. Remember, the preventative is always going to be less expensive (and much, much safer) than the treatment.
Answer 8: MOSTLY FALSE. Heartworms are not directly contagious. They can not be passed from one animal to another the way a cold can be passed. They are only transmitted by mosquitoes that have bitten an infected animal. It takes about 2 weeks before that mosquito can then infect another dog through the mosquito bite. During that time, the immature form of the heartworm parasite matures within the mosquito to the infective stage. Therefore, while it is possible for an infected animal to indirectly pass it on to another unprotected animal in the same household (by way of a mosquito), it is fairly rare.
Answer 9: TRUE. According to the American Heartworm Society, “Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it can leave your dog unprotected.” Cats are a bit different in that they “should be tested before being put on prevention and re-tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate to document continued exposure and risk. “
Answer 10: FALSE: If you forget to give your pet its heartworm medication one month, give him the dose as soon as you realize the error. Then call your veterinarian and let them know how long the animal went without medication. You will likely be advised to continue with regular doses and have the pet tested for heartworms in six months, then again in another six months to make sure he wasn’t infected during the period of the missed dose. It generally takes approximately 6-7 months for an infection to be detectable with the test, and the sooner it’s caught, the better.
How did you do?
Make sure your beloved pet is protected from heartworms all year long. If you haven’t scheduled a heartworm test in the past year, please call Total Veterinary Care® today to book this simple blood test today. And be sure your pet is on a proven preventative all year. Your veterinarian or licensed vet tech can advise you on your options and answer any questions you may have.