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Top Tips for Preventing Heartworms

Heartworm disease is a serious condition affecting both dogs and cats, which once developed can be difficult, dangerous and expensive to treat. Fortunately, prevention can be as simple as administering a monthly medication and following a few tips.

#1 tip: be consistent

If you’re looking for the one thing you can do to protect your pet from heartworm, this is it: be consistent with heartworm medication. Monthly heartworm medications work by killing any larvae that may have entered your pet’s bloodstream in the 30 days previous. They are not effective against future infection, so by delaying or skipping a dose, these larvae will be free to develop into the adult worms that cause heartworm disease.

There are plenty of ways to keep a note of the date for your pet’s heartworm medication – it’s just a matter of finding the one that works for you. Some vets will offer a free reminder, and there are a number of online email reminder services or apps for your smartphone. And of course, there’s always the simple wall calendar.

Many pet owners find it more convenient and easier to remember if they use a combination medication that treats other parasites at the same time. There are plenty of these broad-spectrum medications that will suit any pet or budget, but some of the most popular options are Heartgard Plus, Advantage Multi and Revolution.

Know the risks

Heartworms are only transmitted by mosquitoes. If there are mosquitoes in your area, your pet is at risk of being infected, it’s as simple as that. Mosquitos biting an infected host (which includes not only pets but also wild animals) will draw up microscopic larvae known as microfilariae. These then develop into infective larvae in the mosquito, before being transferred to another host via the mosquito’s mouth. It only takes a single mosquito bite to deposit enough microfilariae to cause heartworm disease.

Dogs are the natural host for heartworm, and if left untreated these worms will develop and breed, and can even number in the hundreds. Cats have a much stronger immune system defense against heartworm, with an infection rate of only 5-20% of that of dogs. Heartworm larvae that enter a cat’s bloodstream are less likely to complete their lifecycle and develop into adult worms. That said, as there is no treatment for feline heartworms, prevention is still the best option.

Regular testing

Even if your dog or cat is taking a regular heartworm preventative medication, vets recommend they are still tested annually. This is for a number of reasons. First is that due to the way heartworm medication works, even delaying your pet’s regular dose by a number of days can leave them susceptible. Second is that tablets may be spit up or vomited without the owner noticing, and even topicals can be rubbed off by the animal. The third reason is that although heartworm medications are the best option for prevention, no medication is 100% effective.

Before starting your pet on preventative treatment, they will need to be tested and cleared for existing heartworm. This is because giving heartworm preventatives to heartworm-positive animals can cause harmful reactions – particularly in dogs.

Keep your pet healthy

The immune system is your pet’s natural defense against heartworm. In a healthy dog or cat, their immune response can help eliminate heartworm microfilariae. And of course, if your pet does develop heartworm disease, the healthier they are, the better chance they have of dealing with the symptoms and making a full recovery. As up to 80% of the immune system is located in the gut, a digestive supplement such as PAW Digesticare or YuDigest for Dogs can be a simple and effective way to improve all-round health.

Top Tips for Preventing Heartworms

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