As the weather warms up and the days lengthen, the month of April is our reminder here at Helping Hands to think about prevention heartworm disease. Heartworms are just that: worms in the heart….. really big, long, *gross* worms in the heart that are often fatal to dogs and cats. The infection is passed to pets in larval form through mosquitos. The lifecycle begins with the heartworm releasing larval offspring, called microfilaria, into the infected animal’s blood stream. Once a mosquito bites the infected animal and takes a blood meal, the microfilaria can be spread to a new animal through the next bite. Within 6 months of infection, the microfilaria become MACROfilaria or actual large worms that live in the heart. At that stage they can disrupt blood flow and compromise the heart’s ability to function.
Having heartworms is a serious disease that requires costly treatment with harsh medication (arsenic injections) and months of exercise restriction or kenneling. Some dogs don’t survive the treatment. Dogs that don’t get the treatment often die. Fortunately this is a disease that be prevented. Prevention occur by killing the larvae monthly with a small dose of safe medication when the microfilaria are microscopic, avoiding all the worry and risk of large heartworm. We carry a number of options, both topical and oral that can be used for monthly prevention.
Heartworm disease is rampant in the southern United States, in the middle of the country, and on the East Coast. We do see heartworm in dogs and cats in all 50 states. Infection is nearly always associated with travel to states outside of the Pacific Northwest. If you are planning on travelling even for a few days with your dog or indoor-outdoor cat outside of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California, Montana, Wyoming, or British Columbia, we recommend testing your pet for the disease and then beginning a monthly prevention medication. Pets who return from endemic areas of the US should stay on the monthly preventative for at least 3 months after arriving here to be sure to eliminate all the microfilaria.
April is Heartworm Awareness month here in our clinic and we are pleased to offer 15% off the simple & fast heartworm blood test performed here in our clinic this month. If you have questions or would like to schedule a quick, inexpensive heartworm test, send us an email or give us a call.
Kari M. Johnson, DVM
Helping Hands Veterinary Clinic
18415 33rd Ave W., Suite R
Lynnwood, WA 98037 425-672-4343