Vet Blog

What You Need to Know About Heartworm Disease

April 22, 2019

As caring and dedicated pet parents, we love to learn everything we can about caring for our animals.

Especially, when it comes to the different illnesses and diseases that can pose a threat to their health and wellbeing.

Here are a few facts you need to know about heartworm disease and how it can affect your pet.

Heartworm Transmission

Heartworms are a parasite that is transmitted from pet to pet by mosquitos. When a mosquito takes a meal from an infected animal, they take some of the heartworm larvae into their body which they then pass on to their next host. When the heartworm larvae enter your pet's bloodstream, they migrate towards her lungs, heart, and the blood vessels that serve them. This is where they will live, feeding off of your pet while they grow and mature - a process that takes around 6 months. After this point, they can mate and reproduce, adding to the number of worms living inside your pet.

There are around 30 different types of mosquitos capable of transmitting heartworms in Kerrville, TX, and across the United States. For this reason, vets recommend that all dogs, cats, and ferrets are given adequate protection regardless of where they live.

The Effects of Heartworms on Your Pet's Body

Heartworms have a reputation for being one of the most dangerous types of parasite and with good reason. The lungs and heart are two of your pet's most important organs and as the number of worms living inside your pet grows, the ability of these organs to function correctly begins to diminish. Blood flow through the organs and around your pet's body is compromised, meaning insufficient oxygen can reach them and they become damaged. Her bodily systems will not function as efficiently, and eventually, the damage to her body will be so severe that she could suffer from organ failure. Animals who have heartworms and are left untreated almost always die.

Prevention of Heartworms

The good news is that it is entirely possible to prevent your pet from the unnecessary suffering that accompanies heartworms. These are a range of different preventatives that have been designed specifically to protect dogs and cats from heartworms and some also prevent other types of parasites too. Most preventatives are given monthly and include chewable tablets and spot-on topical treatments. Six-monthly injectable prevention is available for those owners who think that this option may be preferable. Since there is a range of different products available, you may wish to obtain the recommendation of your vet before starting a particular brand of heartworm preventative.

Preventatives Must Be Given on Time to Be Effective

All preventatives are only effective for an approximate period of time before your pet requires another dose. In the case of monthly preventatives, this is around 30 days. After this point, the ingredients that are protecting your pet may no longer be effective and this could leave your pet vulnerable to heartworms and any other parasites it was designed to prevent.

Heartworm Treatment Isn't a Quick Fix

Fortunately, heartworms can be treated, and, in many cases, this treatment is successful. Nevertheless, there are some known risks associated with heartworm treatment and your pet will need to be carefully monitored for the duration of their treatment to ensure that they do not have any adverse reactions to the medications used or to the death of the heartworms. This is important because heartworms contain bacteria that are released into your pet's body when they die, and this can make some animals unwell. Equally, killing too many heartworms at once can also be dangerous for your pet. As such, the treatment plan is progressive and involves multiple elements and stages including:

  • Exercise restriction
  • Medications to help prevent adverse reactions from heartworm treatment
  • Treatment to kill microfilaria (immature heartworms)
  • Treatment to kill adult worms spaced over several appointments
  • Other medications to help your pet recover and rehabilitate

Your veterinarian in Kerrville, TX will talk you through every aspect of the treatment plan, enabling you to ask any questions that you have.

If there is anything about heartworm disease that you would like more information about, or if you would like to schedule an appointment for your pet to be seen by our experienced veterinarians, please get in touch with Hoegemeyer Animal Clinic in Kerrville, TX today at (830) 896-6507.

Book an Appointment Here!