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The Real Deal About Heartworms

Did you know? In North Carolina…

  • One in 74 dogs will test positive for heartworms.
  • One in 150 cats will test positive for heartworms.
  • Heartworm disease is a year-round problem.

What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious condition transmitted by mosquitoes. It is present in all 50 states.

Mosquitoes naturally gravitate to bite the warmest body they can find, which is often your dog or cat. It only takes one bite one time for an infected mosquito to transmit heartworms to your fur baby.

Heartworm disease can be life-threatening and is potentially fatal. Treating it in dogs is expensive and difficult. Sadly, there is no treatment for heartworms in cats.

How can I tell if my dog or cat has heartworms?
Pets with heartworm disease may initially have no symptoms at all.

In dogs, baby (larval) heartworms migrate through the bloodstream to the heart, where they grow into adult heartworms. This can cause heart failure. Possible symptoms, especially later in the disease, include coughing, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing—and sudden death.

In cats, symptoms of heartworm disease are not related to the presence of heartworms but to the death of heartworms, which occurs 1 to 2 years after infection.

Even indoor-only cats are at risk. Almost 30 percent of heartworm cases in cats occur in indoor-only cats. Infected cats generally have respiratory symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing, which often is mistaken as asthma. Intermittent vomiting is also a common sign. Sadly, sudden death is a very common symptom of heartworm disease in cats.

How can I keep my dog or cat protected from heartworms?
Year-round heartworm protection is essential to prevent heartworm disease in both dogs and cats.

Heartworm disease has been proven to occur in North Carolina every month of the year. Due to the propensity for lapses in heartworm protection, resistance to heartworm protection is beginning to occur. Heartworm preventative is now only considered 100 percent effective until applied monthly for 3 months in a row.

The good news is there are many options for heartworm protection. Heartworm preventative products come in oral soft chews, topical liquids, and 6-month injections. Heartworm protection is even combined with intestinal parasite control and flea protection.

You can get heartworm preventative directly through our online pharmacy at ah-bc.vetsfirstchoice.com/. Monthly heartworm protection can be shipped to your house on the same date every month to serve as an easy reminder to administer it.

Should my dog or cat get a heartworm test?
Annual testing for heartworm disease is extremely important for dogs.

Certain kinds of heartworms have developed some resistance to heartworm protection. It only takes missing one dosage of heartworm preventative, giving one dosage late, or the pet vomiting up or rubbing off one dosage for an infection to occur.

The early diagnosis of heartworm disease is critical to prevent damage to the heart, lungs, and great vessels. Heartworm testing can be easily combined with wellness blood work for early detection of a variety of medical conditions.