Do you give your dog heartworm preventative? How about your cat? Do you want to know why this is important? Read on!
When we think of “worms,” we mostly think of intestinal worms; we diagnose those by sending a stool sample to the laboratory. Heartworms are different; they are spread by mosquitos, and the adult heartworms live in the big blood vessels that take blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs to pick up oxygen. The mosquitos carry the tiny heartworm larvae, called microfilaria, and these enter your dog’s system when he or she is bitten by that mosquito. In case you are thinking that your dog spends very little time outside, remember that mosquitos come into the house very easily. That’s how even indoor cats get heartworm disease.
In dogs, if we catch the heartworm disease before the dog has any symptoms, such as coughing or lethargy, we can treat him or her and get rid of the heartworms; this is a 4-month process, and it costs more than a 10-year supply of heartworm preventative! In cats, there is no successful treatment, and cats are more likely to die of heartworm than dogs are.
For dogs, there are 3 ways to prevent heartworm disease: most people give a monthly chewable; many people get the 6-month injection (brand name ProHeart), and some people use the monthly topical (brand name Revolution). We also recommend an annual blood test; if your dog were to get heartworm disease, and you have been getting annual heartworm tests and have been purchasing 12 months of heartworm preventative every year, the companies that make the preventatives have guarantees that state that they will pay for the cost of the treatment needed to cure your dog.
For cats, Revolution is the treatment of choice; it also prevents fleas, and it’s easier for many cats than a pill would be, even a chewable one.