How to Prevent Heartworm Disease in Cats and Dogs

cute white dog leo and luckys heartworm article

If the topic of heartworms makes you squeamish, here’s a quick summary of what you need to know: heartworm disease is very serious and potentially fatal. It is highly prevalent in many areas of the country (ours being one of them). All cats and dogs should be on heartworm prevention medication, including those that stay indoors. Please consult with your veterinarian about which medication is right for your pet. Heartworm medication requires a prescription from a veterinarian.

If you’d like to know the details, read on! This information is provided by the American Heartworm Society.

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal affliction in certain mammals in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by large parasitic worms that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected animals, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban and suburban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease. Heartworm infections are transmitted by mosquitoes from animal to animal.

Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to year—even within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk. For these reasons, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.

What are the signs of heartworm disease?

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, asthma-like attacks in cats, periodic vomiting in cats, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Pets with large numbers of heartworms can develop life threatening complications. If you notice any abnormal symptoms in your pet, check with your veterinarian.

Get your pet tested at Leo&Lucky’s

The veterinarian at our low-cost vaccine clinics can do on-site heartworm testing and provide heartworm prevention medication for your pet. Please check our events page to see our schedule.

Nicole Apostle is the marketing director at Leo&Lucky's.