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13 July
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Heartworms: What They Are and How to Prevent Them

If you’re a pet owner, then we’re well aware of just how important your four-legged friends are to you. They greet you the moment you set foot in your home (unless you own a cat with an attitude!) and they always show their affection, no matter what. But, are you doing everything in your power to ensure that they stay happy and healthy?

Now that it’s summer and the mosquitos are out, one of the most important conditions to be mindful of is heartworm disease. In colder climates up north, mosquitos may only be a seasonal issue, but if you live in the Rio Grande Valley, or even just visit here with your pets, our mosquitos never take a break, therefore, the American Heartworm Society recommends that all pets stay on heartworm preventative all year.

In this piece, we’ll be going over a few ways on how you can help to keep your pets safe and sound from this very serious and life-threatening medical condition.

What Are They?

Heartworms are parasites that are transmitted through mosquito bites. The immature larval stage that’s transmitted by mosquito bites, microfilaria, is microscopic, meaning you can’t see them with the naked eye. It takes about six months for the immature heartworm to migrate through the tissues toward the vessels around the heart, where they become adults and begin reproducing.

If bitten by a mosquito that’s transmitting the microfilaria, symptoms may not become evident until the heartworms have matured into adults, which can grow up to 14 inches long and begin clogging the vessels around your pet’s heart.

Early Signs

Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, spotting early signs of heartworms is impossible without a routine diagnostic blood test. Only after the condition has become serious and physically damaging to your pet’s lungs and heart valves do symptoms begin to appear.

These include:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • A constant honking cough
  • Weight loss/decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating of the abdomen

If you’ve noticed any of these signs, then we seriously suggest bringing your pet in to Valley Animal Hospital for a checkup as soon as possible.

Prevention

Considering that dogs, cats and small mammals are susceptible to heartworms, the best thing you can do at home is take preventative measures. It seems like one of the easiest things would be to keep the mosquitos away, right? Unfortunately, mosquitos thrive in humid and warm climates, and even if you always keep your pets inside and never let them out, we’ve all seen at least one mosquito flying around the living room, and one mosquito bite is all it takes to transmit heartworm disease.

Prescription, year-round preventative is the gold standard for heartworm prevention. There are several ways we can help you protect your pets from heartworm disease, whether it be with a tasty flavored monthly oral chew, a monthly liquid medication that you easily apply topically or an injectable medication given by the doctor that provides six months of convenient heartworm prevention.

Testing your furry friend on a yearly basis is also recommended since no preventative is 100% effective. The heartworm test we use only requires three drops of blood and the results are available within 15 minutes. Our test also conveniently checks for three common tick diseases at the same time.

If your pet tests positive for heartworms, we have a safe and effective heartworm treatment that consists of a series of injections, and we will spend as much time as you need to go over all the details and answer any questions you may have.

We Can Help

For more information on heartworms and heartworm preventatives, or if you’re just looking for a veterinarian near McAllen, then contact Valley Animal Hospital today! We offer examinations for both healthy and sick pets as well many other services for dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and pocket pets of all kinds!

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