Heartworm disease is a very real threat to our pets here in St. Louis. Not only is our area considered “high risk,” but if your dog is not getting regular heartworm prevention treatment, they are particularly susceptible to this devastating disease.
If a dog contracts heartworms, they will develop severe problems with their heart and lungs. Also, if untreated, it is usually fatal. Since heartworm treatment is typically expensive, painful, and requires cage rest for months, prevention is one of the most important things we can do for our pets.
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm that grows to 10-16 inches long and lives in the heart and the major blood vessels between the heart and lungs. The parasite is contracted from mosquitos that can carry the microscopic larvae of the heartworms. Over a six-month period, these immature larvae grow into the adult worms that cause the dog to get sick.
Almost 300,000 dogs get heartworms each year in the U.S., including a few cases here at My Best Friend Veterinary Center.
As part of our annual wellness exam, we will ask questions to help ensure your dog isn’t showing signs of the disease, as well as listen to their heart and lungs for any abnormalities. Even if no clinical signs are apparent, we recommend that all dogs get a simple and affordable blood test at this time to ensure they do not have evidence of the parasite in their bloodstream before safely administering preventatives.
We recommend all dogs that live here in the St. Louis area stay on a heartworm preventative medication year-round. These medications prevent the disease by killing the microscopic larvae before they get a chance to grow into the adult worms that cause problems.
There are many different heartworm preventatives available, but all of them are prescription medications. They come in…
Most of our clients choose to use a chewable, treat-like heartworm medicine for dogs that is given monthly (such as Heartgard®). But choosing the right medication can depend on your dog’s lifestyle, age, health history, breed and current medications.
Besides preventing heartworm disease, most of the medications will prevent or treat many intestinal worms and parasites – some of which they can potentially pass on to people! It’s important to note that when used as directed, these medications are very safe and very effective.
Although we mainly worry about heartworm disease in dogs, it can occur in cats as well. Cats are not as susceptible to heartworms because their bodies often can control and get rid of a heartworm infection on its own. Despite this fact, sometimes cats can develop a severe or fatal heartworm infection.
Testing for heartworm in cats is not often accurate. Therefore, for cats that spend time outside, we do recommend medications that prevent heartworms as well as fleas. This is most often a topical product such as Revolution®.
If you have any questions about heartworm disease, safety and prevention, or which medication is best for your pet and your lifestyle, then please let us know. We have various heartworm medications available at our clinic, many of which offer a guarantee if bought through us.
If your pet is not currently on heartworm medication, please contact our office in Olivette to set up an appointment with one of our veterinarians. We can schedule a blood test that helps get your pet started on the right preventative.
For more information on heartworm disease, try these sites: