There is a commercial on the radio that touts outdoor pet control will “protect your pet” from diseases spread by mosquitoes. Technically killing mosquitoes, limiting contact reduces the risk of heartworm infection. Don’t let this give you a false sense of security when it comes to the threat of heartworm disease to your dog and cat.
August 20th is World Mosquito Day, the focus is usually on the diseases they spread to humans, like west Nile, Malaria, and Zika. Let us not forget our furry family members. Heartworm disease prevalence continues to increase. Luckily, it is almost 100% preventable.
Don’t gamble with mosquito protection, use a proven heartworm prevention to eliminate the chance your pet will become heartworm positive.
How our pets become infected
Mosquitos transmit heartworm disease to your pets anytime they are active and feeding.
Only female mosquitoes bite (the blood they ingest is usually required for her to produce and lay eggs). These females bite an infected animal; she ingests the infant stage of the heartworm then she travels to another animal, bites it and transfers these juvenile stages to a new animal.
Mosquitoes can fly long distances; some more than 20 miles from the water source that produced them. You and your neighbors may all be diligent in giving all of your pets’ heartworm prevention but it us takes one infected animal within the radius (up to 20 miles) to put your pet in danger. I don’t like those odds.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) publishes prevalence maps so you can see heartworm disease is present in your neck of the woods.
What is Heartworm Disease
Heartworm is a progressive and potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Did you know it’s not just dogs and cats at risk? Ferrets are susceptible to getting a heartworm infection as well. Raccoons, coyotes, and foxes can also be infected.
Even pets who live strictly indoors can become infected with heartworms. Have you ever seen a mosquito in your home? I sure have. When an animal becomes infected with heartworms it can be fatal. Annual testing is recommended but be aware of the signs:
- Dogs may not show signs of the illness early on. They most frequently cough but also can become tired easily, or have trouble breathing. Anorexia is noted as well. It is most common for dogs to be diagnosed by a veterinarian from a blood test.
- Cats are more difficult to diagnose than dogs. They tend to exhibit respiratory signs most frequently. Vomiting and coughing are also common. Sudden death can occur as well.
- Ferrets exhibit signs of disease similar to dogs, however more rapidly. A single heartworm can cause serious disease in a ferret (this rings true in cats as well).
The American Heartworm Society recommends testing pets every 12 months for heartworm and giving year-round heartworm prevention to dogs, cats and ferrets. Prevention is the best medicine.
Prevention is Easy, Treatment is Hard
It’s easy to comply with this year-round recommendation. There are oral, topical, and injectable preventatives for dogs and oral and topical for cats and ferrets. It is much cheaper to pay for monthly preventative vs. paying for treatment. Depending on
There are many preventative medications available for your pet. You can review this link from the CAPC which gives you specifics on the products available in the US. Always speak you’re your veterinarian for specific recommendations on which product and administration is best for your and your pet.
My post from 2018 covers why year-round prevention is so important. Product guide reference:
Treatment for heartworm positive dogs are available but prevention is best medicine. There is no approved treatment for cats. Monthly prevention, depending on size of your pet can cost as little as $15 a month. The average course of treatment for a heartworm positive dogs is approximately $1000. Monthly prevention is a pretty good insurance policy.
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal infection spread by mosquitos which can be prevented.
Annual testing is recommended even in pets that are given preventatives as directed. Speak with your pets veterinarian about the options for preventatives.
Happy Pet Parenting,