Written by Kealy Fitzsimmons, a veterinary student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine.
Heartworm prevention is a very important step in preventative health for your pet. Preventative health means to prevent or decrease the severity of the disease and heartworm prevention does just that. It works to prevent heartworm disease. And heartworm disease has been diagnosed in every state so it is important no matter where you’re at.
After your veterinarian recommends preventatives you may think, “well does my pet need them?” The answer is yes! And Vetted will tell you why heartworm prevention is important in this article.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is caused by worms that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels. These worms cause severe lung disease, damage to other organs, and heart failure. Dogs are natural hosts for heartworm and contain the adults and offspring when they are infected.
How does my dog get heartworm disease?
It’s as simple as one infected mosquito biting your dog. The mosquito is the vector for heartworm disease which means if the mosquito has bitten and taken a blood meal from an infected animal, it will carry the baby worms (microfilaria) to its next host, which could be your dog. The mosquito will bite the unaffected animal and transfer the baby worms onto that bite site where they will then enter the bloodstream. Once the mosquito has deposited the baby worms it takes about 6 months for the larvae to mature.
How can I prevent heartworm disease?
It’s as easy as one chewable treat or topical application every month. While chewable is preferred by most clients and veterinary clinics, topical application is also an option if your dog doesn’t tolerate the oral version well. There is also a product that can be injected under the skin every 6 or 12 months at your veterinarian’s office. Year-round prevention is best and highly recommended.
How does the prevention work?
Heartworm prevention is used to kill those baby worms (aka microfilaria) that might have gotten access to your dog. By giving them the prevention, it kills the microfilaria before they can mature into adults. So let’s say your dog got bit by a mosquito in July and that mosquito was infected. When you give August’s prevention, it will kill those baby worms from July. That is also why it is so important to give it the same time every month because missing it by just a few days can open the window for microfilaria to mature into adults.
How can I make sure my dog doesn’t have heartworm disease?
You can do this by having a yearly heartworm test and making sure you give your monthly heartworm prevention on time every month. A heartworm test works by the veterinarian’s office drawing a little bit of blood from your pet and running a test usually right in the clinic. It takes less than 10 minutes and can detect heartworm disease.
If you missed or gave a dose of heartworm prevention late, you should continue on your regular schedule of heartworm prevention and get a heartworm test 6 months after you potentially missed a dose or were late- since it takes 6 months for the heartworms to mature and be detected on a test.
Vetted is a membership plan that focuses on your pet’s preventative health. Vetted focuses on empowering pet parents to take control of their pet’s preventive health and guide them through pet parenthood. We want our members to feel confident in caring for their pet’s health and focus on having fun and enjoying life with their pets. A Vetted membership includes; reimbursement on preventative health vet services, preventative health products right to your door, and a 24/7 virtual vet chat.
In your Vetted membership, you will receive your monthly heartworm prevention right to your door. You will also get reminders sent right to your phone when it’s due so you never forget. Your annual heartworm test is also included in the reimbursement of your annual preventative health vet services. And along with the membership is our 24/7 vet virtual chat to answer any questions or concerns you might have.