April is National Heartworm Awareness month which was started by the American Heartworm Society. Heartworm disease is unfortunately very common throughout the United States, especially in the southeast. The disease is caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of infected animals.
An infected animal will have microscopic immature worms circulating in their bloodstream which are transmitted by mosquitoes. Many different mammals can be affected by heartworms, including dogs, cats, ferrets, coyote, foxes, sea lions and on rare occasions, even humans.
Heartworms are treatable in dogs, but the treatment does carry some risk and can be costly. Unfortunately, there currently is not treatment available in cats.
In all pets, prevention is a much better option and we recommend that all dogs and cats in our area be on a heartworm preventative all year. Mosquitoes are very resilient and adaptable insects; they can frequently be found inside our houses, and while they are usually associated with warm weather, they only require temperatures to be in the low 50’s in order to become active.
As a result, even animals who spend most of their time indoors are at risk of infection and need to be on preventative medications.
Left untreated, heartworm disease can often be fatal. Thankfully, it is very preventable. For more information on heartworm, see heartwormsociety.org