It’s important to make sure your pets are up to date on their shots and preventative medicine, to prevent against heartworm, ringworm, tapeworm, rabies, and other diseases that can be shockingly easy to contract. Around one million dogs are found to test positive for heartworm annually, which can eventually be a fatal disease for dogs and cats, if not treated properly. If you suspect that your pet may have heartworm, you should bring him or her into the vet where your veterinarian can run veterinary diagnostics to see what’s what. Your vet may screen your cat or dog using a heartworm antigen test. If that test is positive, they may send off for the diagnostics to be run in a veterinary laboratory to confirm. Some vets may have a lab in house, but others may contract lab services, so the final test results might take a week or so to come back.
What is Heartworm and What are Its Consequences?
According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworms are foot-long worms that cause heartworm disease, which can have serious, if not deadly, effects on your pets if not caught and treated in time. These worms reside in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of these organs, which can result in lung disease, heart failure, and can even spread to cause damage in other organs.
Pets are at risk for this disease especially in rural areas, since wild animals like coyotes or foxes can be carriers, and pets are more likely to be outdoor animals. If you have an outdoor pet, it’s very important that he or she be well vaccinated and be taking a preventative heartworm medicine monthly. However, even if you live in an urban area, mosquitoes are also carriers of the disease, so you should still be taking the necessary precautions to keep your pet safe.
What are Preventative Measures to Take With My Pet?
Since heartworms are an actual organism, not a bacteria or virus, there’s no vaccine that your dog or cat can get as a puppy or a kitten. There are, however, plenty of heartworm prevention medicines available. You should discuss which might be best for your pet to take. These medicines should be administered monthly if it’s a chewable tablet. Some vets may also offer the option of a twice a year injection.
You should also get your pet tested at least once a year for heartworm, just to make sure (even if they’re on the prevention medicine!). Puppies who are less than seven months old can start taking heartworm prevention medicine without having taken the test, but they should get tested six months after the first vet visit, and then again another six months later, and after that, annually, to make sure that they stay free of heartworms.
Keep in mind that treating your pet for heartworm after the fact costs around $1,000, so purchasing the preventive medicine is really quite a good deal.
What Happens if My Pet Has Heartworm?
If your pet does indeed end up getting heartworm, the first thing you’ll want to do is to get your pet to the vet. As mentioned before, the vet will send away to confirm the veterinary diagnostics and if that test comes back positive, it’s time to start the treatment, which can be quite expensive and complex, depending on what stage the heartworms have reached.
Your pet may need to stay at a veterinary hospital for awhile or be carefully monitored. Listen carefully to the advice the vet gives you and be sure you’re following it closely, to avoid prolonging the affair. After your pet is stabilized and through with treatment, you’ll want to get another heartworm test done, to make sure they’re gone.
One of the best ways to keep your pet safe is to try and prevent them from contracting heartworm in the first place. But if they should, have no fear. Take them to a vet immediately, wait for the confirmation of the veterinary diagnostics, and proceed from there.