April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, but heartworm disease is a year-round problem, particularly in Alabama with the prevalence of mosquitoes.
Heartworms can be carried by mosquitos and can be transferred to pets if they are bitten by the mosquito.
Dr. Jeff Falone at Valleydale Animal Clinic says,
“One of the main tenets of preventative medicine for pets is heartworm prevention and testing. Heartworm disease can be fatal but it is preventable, but most be maintained 12 months out of the year. It is not just a seasonal problem and affects indoor pets too.”
Here is the basics of what you need to know and how you can protect your pets from this potentially fatal disease:
What are heartworms?
Foot-long heartworms live in the heart, lungs & blood vessels of infected pets, causing lung disease, heart failure, organ damage and can be fatal if untreated.
How does a pet get heartworms?
Heartworms living in an infected canine, feline or wildlife produce baby worms that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up heartworms and when it bites another animal, the worms enter through the bite wound. Heartworms grow and live for 5 – 7 years in dogs and 3 years in cats.
How prevalent are heartworms?
Heartworm disease is a year-round problem. In Alabama, 1 in 26 dogs tested positive for heartworms.
What can I do to protect my pet?
Dogs should be tested annually for heartworms and before starting heartworm prevention. Prevention is the safest & most cost-effective option, but treatment is available for dogs (although costly & lengthy). Cats should be tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate. There is no treatment in cats, so prevention is critical and the only way to protect.