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Don’t Break Your Pet’s Heart – Check for Heartworm!

heartworm cartoon

Not only are mosquitoes annoying because their bites cause us to itch, but they also pose a significant risk to our pets, as they have the potential for passing on the heartworm parasite.  Heartworms typically reside in the heart, lungs and general circulatory system (blood vessels), where they mature into adults and begin to reproduce.  It can be difficult to tell if your pet is infected with the heartworm parasite, just by looking at them, because symptoms of the disease are tough to spot.  By the time your pet begins exhibiting noticeable symptoms, the infestation can be quite severe, potentially life-threatening, even fatal.  All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito to pass the parasite onto your pet!

Fortunately, with a little prevention, our spring and summer seasons can still be enjoyed, despite these dangerous parasites!  For dogs, it is recommended to perform heartworm testing on yearly basis. This involves taking a small sample of blood and checking for the presence of the heartworm parasite. Given the rise in tick-borne diseases (see last month’s blog for more details!), often laboratories will offer combination heartworm and tick-born disease testing!  If the tests come back negative, preventative medication is dispensed, to be administered on a monthly basis throughout the season (May through November for ticks, and June through November for heartworm).

Preventative medication comes in two forms – either as a tablet that is taken orally, or as a liquid that is applied to their skin and absorbed.  Different medications will protect your pet to varying degrees, so ask your veterinarian which medication is right for your pet!

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