April is Heartworm Awareness Month, and it’s an important disease for pet owners to understand. Although you can’t see them, heartworms are a major cause of illness in our area.
Heartworms cause serious damage to the heart and vessels around the heart which leads to heart failure and causes pets to slowly waste away. Dirofilaria immitis, the scientific name for heartworms, is primarily a disease of dogs, but it can also affect cats.
How do pets get heartworms?
Heartworms are injected into your pet’s bloodstream when they are bitten by an infected mosquito…and we all know there are plenty of those flying around in our area.
And, in our experience, it’s one of the first things owners think they can ignore to save money. So combine a high incidence of mosquitoes and a high rate of dogs who are not on prevention, and you can see why heartworm disease is so common.
The thing to remember about heartworms is that it’s so much easier to prevent infection than it is to treat it. So let’s go over options for preventing heartworms vs the method of treating them.
3 ways to prevent heartworm disease
Prior to starting any heartworm prevention, we will need to make sure your pet has been tested for heartworm infection.
This is a very simple test that requires a few drops of blood and about 10 minutes to get results in the clinic. Once we’ve confirmed a negative heartworm status, we can go over your options for prevention.
1. Once Monthly Oral Heartworm Prevention
One of the most commonly used methods is administering a heartworm pill once monthly to cats and dogs. And there are several companies that make oral heartworm preventative.
We recommend Interceptor and Trifexis which have similar ingredients. The difference is that Trifexis includes oral flea control and Interceptor does not.
For a 35 pound dog, Interceptor costs about $13 a month, and Trifexis is about $22.
2. Topical Monthly Heartworm Prevention
Another option pet owners have now is topical heartworm prevention. This is a great choice for pets with food allergies and those who are difficult to administer oral medications to.
We recommend Advantage Multi for both cats and dogs. This is a great broad-spectrum anti parasiticide that protects your pets from fleas, heartworms, intestinal parasites, and more.
For most pets, Advantage Multi will cost about $30 per month.
3. Injectable Heartworm Prevention
One of the newest innovations in veterinary medicine is long-acting injectable heartworm prevention. This offers the utmost convenience for pet parents requiring a single injection to protect your pet for an entire year.
We offer the ProHeart 12 injection in our office for pets with a current negative heartworm test and who have been approved to receive the injection from our veterinarians.
Treating Heartworm Disease
We know that heartworm prevention can seem like an expensive addition to pet parenthood, but it’s much, much more affordable than having to treat heartworm disease.
Not only is the injection expensive, but we need to run bloodwork and take X-rays before we administer the medication to make sure your pet doesn’t need a modified protocol.
Because the medication we use to kill adult heartworms contains arsenic, pets tend to feel really cruddy for a few days after the injection too.
It can cause pain and swelling, fever, vomiting, lung problems, and depression. Rarely, it can lead to severe side effects including death.
You can easily spend $700-$1000 treating heartworms depending on the size of your pet. And the scariest part of it is that without treatment, they will likely die.
Schedule a heartworm test and consultation
Now you understand why we think heartworm disease is so important it deserves a National Awareness Month. We would love to have you and your pet in our clinic for a heartworm test and consultation with one of our veterinarians.