When you’re a pet parent, your four-legged friend is one of the most important things in your world. That means it’s important to learn everything you can about how to care for them and the things that might cause them harm. Since April is Heartworm Awareness Month, we’re going to give you a quick rundown on what you need to know about heartworm disease.

What Is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm is a potentially fatal infection that primarily affects dogs, cats, and ferrets. If you own any of these animals, it’s critical that you brush up on your pet health knowledge. The heartworm infection, as the name suggests, is caused by a certain type of worm — Dirofilaria Immitis. These worms live in the right half of the heart and in the arteries of the lungs. If your pet is infected, these worms can cause serious damage to the arteries in which they reside. Eventually, this infection will lead to heart failure. In severe cases, your pet may also suffer from organ failure of the liver and kidneys. Heartworm disease is commonly spread by mosquitoes during the spring and summer months. Adult worms can live for up to seven years if a dog is their host.

How Can You Prevent Heartworms?

Fortunately, heartworm is a completely preventable disease. You don’t even need to see a specialty vet to prevent this infection from harming your beloved furry friends. According to the American Heartworm Society (AHS), heartworm prevention is “safe, easy, and inexpensive.” This holds especially true when compared to the costs and risks involved in treating an active case of heartworm in your pet. You also have a few different options when it comes to heartworm prevention. Some of the most common methods of prevention include:

  • Injectables
  • Daily or monthly tablets
  • Chewables
  • Topical solutions
While these preventive treatments need to be administered on a regular schedule, the time and effort are well worth the protection for your pet. With just a little bit of effort on a regular basis, you can prevent your pet from ever suffering from heartworm.

How Is Heartworm Treated?

Even though heartworm is preventable, it’s important to understand what veterinarian treatment looks like in the event that you run into this kind of pet emergency. Adult heartworms must be killed using an adulticide. This drug must be injected into your pet’s muscle tissue in injections administered by your veterinarian. Much like bringing your pet in for vaccines every three or four weeks when they’re young, this treatment will require you to bring your pet for regular injections. While it’s possible to administer these injections as an outpatient procedure, most vets typically recommend hospitalization for your pet. This ensures that your vet and their staff can keep a close eye on your pet and monitor their condition. The treatment period typically lasts up to two months, and hospitalization is recommended for the duration of the injection series. It’s a long and stressful process, but in most cases, otherwise healthy pets are able to make a full recovery.

Heartworm awareness shouldn’t be limited to one month out of the year. If you have questions about heartworm prevention or you’re worried that your pet is suffering from heartworm, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian today.

At Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center we are happy to provide a wide range of veterinary specialty and emergency services. It is important to have a “primary care” veterinarian to keep your new family member healthy and happy with routine vaccinations and health checks. But if you find yourself in the midst of a veterinary emergency, our team of experienced veterinarians is here to help. When it comes to visiting animal hospitals, we understand that the experience can be full of stress and worry, so we aim to make things as simple as possible. For more information, get in touch with one of our experts today.