April marks Heartworm Awareness Month, alongside National Brunch, Pecan, and Poetry Months. Although brunch and poetry sound delightful, our focus lies on heartworms, which is crucial information for pet owners. These harmful parasites necessitate attention. Join a local Fayetteville, NC veterinarian’s discussion on heartworm basics to safeguard your furry companion’s health.


Should Dogs Receive Heartworm Prevention Monthly?


Keeping Fido up-to-date with heartworm prevention is crucial. The frequency varies based on the product. If he’s on a monthly regimen, then yes, it’s monthly. Some preventatives can last up to 6 or even 12 months now.


In northern climates like Canada, some opt to halt medication during winter, a decision left to the owner. Nevertheless, we advocate maintaining it, particularly as temperatures rise. Seek guidance from your Fayetteville, NC vet for tailored advice that suits your pet’s needs.


When Do Dogs Contract Heartworms?


Summer poses the most danger in many regions due to heightened mosquito activity. Yet, Fido remains susceptible year-round. In the South, the risk persists regardless of the season.


During northern winters, the risk decreases but doesn’t vanish. Surprisingly, certain mosquitoes endure the cold longer than expected. It’s worth noting that rising average temperatures might intensify the risk of infection even during the winter months, adding an extra layer of concern for pet owners in these regions.


Where Does Heartworm Prevail the Most?


Heartworms pose a ubiquitous threat, thriving wherever mosquitoes are found. Reported cases span North America, leaving Fido vulnerable across the US and Canada. States with the highest incidences typically boast hot, humid climates. Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina emerge as hotspots due to their environmental conditions.


Are Certain Breeds More Susceptible to Heartworm Infection?


Heartworms can affect any dog, regardless of age or breed.


Pups with thin fur face a slightly higher risk as mosquitoes find them easier to bite. However, this doesn’t ensure safety for longhaired dogs; even fluffy breeds remain vulnerable to heartworm infection.


What Is the Slogan for Heartworms?


Love Your Pet, Protect Their Heart – a campaign by the American Heartworm Society.


What Do the Numbers Reveal About Heartworms?


The data portrays an unpleasant scene.


  • Heartworms can be transmitted by over 70 mosquito species.
  • Female heartworms reach approximately 10 inches, while males can grow up to 12 inches.
  • They look like spaghetti. (Gross)
  • Larvae can survive within mosquitoes for a month.
  • When a dog is infested, it takes roughly 6 to 7 months for the worms to mature and begin reproducing.


How Can Dogs Get Heartworms?


Heartworm transmission doesn’t occur directly between dogs but through mosquitoes. Thus, Fido’s risk exists everywhere, even in his cozy bed. The reliance on mosquitoes means heartworms can strike anytime, regardless of Fido’s location.


Fundamentally, a mosquito acquires heartworm larvae, termed microfilariae, by biting an infected dog. Upon biting another pup, the mosquito introduces the heartworms into his bloodstream. Subsequently, they mature and soon commence reproduction.


Is Treatment Available for Heartworms?


It’s a mix of good and bad news. Treatments are available, but they’re costly and tough on Fido. So while there’s hope, it comes with a hefty price tag and potential hardship. Throughout treatment, your pet’s activities may need strict curbing to prevent heart strain. This involves limiting walks and play, which can be disappointing for the pup. In severe cases, kenneled confinement may be required to ensure your pet’s well-being and recovery from heartworms.


Surgery may be necessary for severe infestations, which can be costly. During this period, your furry friend will require close monitoring.


Signs of Heartworm Infestations in Dogs


Symptoms of heartworm infestation can vary among individual dogs, with some showing no signs until the worms mature, which typically takes about six months. An early indication may include a dry, mild cough, along with a notable decrease in Fido’s usual energy levels.


Below are a few signs to watch out for:


  • Fatigue
  • Breathing Issues
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Lack Of Interest In Play
  • Weight Loss
  • Nosebleeds
  • Persistent Coughing
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Swollen Abdomen
  • Discolored Gums


Over time, if the infestation persists, more severe symptoms like fainting, staggering, and even heart attacks may develop. Tragically, sudden death could also ensue.


Do Cats Get Heartworms?


Indeed, cats can get heartworms, although infestations are relatively uncommon due to feline bodies being less conducive to the worms compared to canines. However, don’t presume Fluffy is exempt. Even one worm can inflict lasting organ damage on a cat. Additionally worrisome is that cats may exhibit no symptoms and suddenly die. Stay vigilant with your feline companion’s preventive care.


Can Heartworms Affect Other Animals?


Heartworms aren’t exclusive to domestic dogs; they affect all canids, including wolves, coyotes, and foxes. Additionally, cats and ferrets can be affected. Surprisingly, heartworms have even been detected in sea lions!


Can Humans Contract Heartworms?


Yes, it’s possible for humans to contract heartworm, although such occurrences are relatively rare. Despite the potential risk, the likelihood of humans developing heartworm disease is minimal. This is largely due to differences in anatomy and biology between humans and the primary hosts of heartworms, such as dogs and other mammals. Nonetheless, it’s essential for individuals to take precautions and seek medical attention if they suspect exposure to heartworm.


How to Prevent Heartworms in My Dog?


Regular preventative care is crucial for Fido. Additionally, you can employ measures to repel mosquitoes. For example, using citronella candles or mosquito repellent sprays can help deter these insects. Did you know that keeping your yard well-maintained can also reduce mosquito breeding sites? Creating a habitat that attracts pollinators and bats is beneficial. Did you know that a single bat can consume up to 600 mosquitoes in a single night? Eliminate standing water to prevent mosquito breeding grounds by emptying containers like buckets and plant pots after rainfall.


Consequences of Forgetting to Administer Preventative Care to My Dog


Prior to restarting preventative care, it’s imperative to have your canine companion tested again. This step is crucial because preventive products are not effective against existing worms. If your pet is already infested, preventive measures won’t address the worms already present. Consult your Fayetteville, NC veterinarian for comprehensive guidance and information.


What’s the Recommended Frequency for Heartworm Testing in Dogs?


Typically, annual heartworm tests suffice for most dogs, yet some may require more frequent screenings. It’s essential to recognize that certain dogs face greater risks. For instance, interacting with other dogs heightens your pet’s exposure. Interestingly, heartworm transmission doesn’t always necessitate direct contact; a neighbor’s dog several houses away can transmit the infection through mosquitoes.


Is Heartworm Prevalence on the Rise?


Regrettably, yes, heartworm prevalence is increasing. Similar to the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance, some worms are developing resistance to preventative measures. Additionally, the rising trend of adopting and transporting dogs across regions has further fueled the surge in heartworm cases. After Hurricane Katrina, many individuals adopted dogs from the South, contributing to the spread of heartworms. Louisiana, known as a heartworm hotspot due to its warm and wet climate, saw a surge in cases, leading to an increase in northern regions.


While there’s no cause for panic, it’s crucial to stay vigilant with your dog’s preventative care regimen and monitor for any symptoms. Reach out to your veterinary clinic immediately if you detect anything unusual.


Schedule an Appointment at Your Animal Hospital


Is your dog due for heartworm medication? Has Fido missed an appointment? Reach out to us, Academy Pet Hospital, for assistance at any time.