Heartworm Disease: How to Protect Your Pet

A mosquito sits atop a leaf.Heartworm disease was once thought to be a problem only in the southern and southeastern United States, but it’s now found in all 50 states. Heartworm disease can cause life-threatening problems in dogs and is nearly always fatal to cats.

Unfortunately, heartworm disease is on the rise for both dogs and cats. That’s why The Maywood Veterinary Clinic wants to take a moment to review what this disease is and how to prevent it.  

Heartworm Disease

Heartworms are parasites that are contracted once an animal is bitten by a mosquito that’s carrying the worm. Once inside the animal’s body, the worm grows and reproduces, eventually invading the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels. If left untreated, heartworm disease can result in significant damage to a pet’s internal organs and cause lots of pain and suffering. Eventually, death can occur.

The symptoms of heartworm disease vary depending on the severity of the infection. Typical signs include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing and other lung issues (especially in cats)

Not for the Faint of Heart

If caught early enough, heartworm disease can be treated in dogs, although treatment is expensive, painful, and requires a long period of isolation and inactivity. There’s currently no heartworm treatment available for cats.

Prevention is a Must

Any pet exposed to mosquitoes is at risk for contracting heartworm disease. Because mosquitoes have an uncanny ability to find their way inside our homes, indoor pets are still at risk for heartworm disease. Year-round parasite prevention is required to support your pet’s ongoing health and wellness.

There are a variety of safe and effective prescription products for preventing heartworm disease. Your veterinarian can recommend the best option for your pet.

The team at The Maywood Veterinary Clinic (along with the American Heartworm Society) recommends that pets receive heartworm prevention medication year-round. Although we don’t expect to see mosquitoes during the winter in New Jersey, the disease is still present; even one missed dose can thwart efforts to eradicate a pre-existing infection.

Please let us know if you have any questions about how to prevent heartworm disease in your pet.