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What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is a prevalent disease now diagnosed in all 50 states, most significantly in the Mississippi River Valley and Southeast U.S. Affecting dogs and cats, it is spread by a mosquito bite. Larvae then develop into adult worms in the pet’s body ultimately entering the bloodstream and ending up in the heart and lungs. As the worms continue to grow they cause significant damage to the heart and lung tissue and also interfere with blood flow. If left untreated the pet will develop heart failure or blood clots which can lead to death. Treatment for heartworm disease does exist, however it is costly and involves months of injections, oral medication, and activity restriction.

Why once yearly heartworm testing?

A once yearly heartworm test consists of a simple blood draw and helps to identify any breaks in prevention allowing the chance to treat the pet before becoming sick. Common reasons for breaks in prevention include

  • pet not ingesting the pill due to spitting out/vomiting

  • owner compliance and giving prevention on time

  • online product not being effective or correct dose

Manufacturers of the heartworm prevention will guarantee their product with proof of yearly heartworm testing and will also pay for the treatment of disease.

Why year round heartworm prevention?

Given the spike in heartworm disease cases as well as climate change veterinarians past recommendation of seasonal prevention has changed. It is now strongly recommended to provide year round prevention for both dogs and cats. The ultimate goal is to provide more complete and thorough prevention by eliminating skipped or forgotten doses or not starting prevention early enough in the spring.

Heartworm prevention options

  • Oral – flavored tablets given by mouth once monthly such as Interceptor Plus or Heartgard Plus

  • Injectable – injectable medication called Proheart given under the skin once every 6 months

Prevention should start at 8 weeks of age and continue for life.