vet jacksonvilleAs pet owners, we do everything we can to keep our pets happy and healthy, even in the midst of our busy lives. Our focus on preventive care, daily exercise and play, and lots of snuggles makes it easy to overlook year-round heartworm prevention. Unfortunately, our busy schedules, along with a proliferation of false information about heartworm, have led to the steady rise of heartworm among U.S. pets over the past 5 years.

Annual screening and year-round prevention of heartworm should be essential components of your pet care plan.

Heartworm 101

Heartworm disease is caused by parasitic worms, Dirofilaria immitis, which are transmitted to pets by mosquitos. Mosquitos can pick up the parasite by feeding on an infected animal, such as a dog, cat, raccoon, coyote, or opossum.

Once inside your pet’s body, the immature worms travel throughout the bloodstream, eventually taking up residence in the heart, lungs, and accompanying blood vessels. Over a period of several months to a year, worms can grow up to a foot in length and cause pain, discomfort, and significant damage to important internal organs.

Heartworm disease is the deadliest vector-borne illness your pet is likely to encounter. Treatment is available for dogs infected with heartworm, although it’s painful, expensive and requires months of confinement. Cats cannot be treated for heartworm and the disease is almost always fatal.

The Importance of Year-Round Prevention

Although pets in all climates should be protected from heartworm throughout the year, it’s especially important here in Florida. Our hot summers coupled with the mild winter seasons mean that mosquitos breed and proliferate all year long.

A simple monthly preventive medication is all that’s required to keep your pet disease-free year-round. Most heartworm preventives also include medication designed to help control common intestinal parasites, such as whipworm, hookworm, roundworm, and tapeworm. Roundworm and hookworm can be transmitted to people, giving you even more reason to protect your pet.

Kings Trail Can Help!

If your pet has not been tested for heartworm in the past year, or is in need of a refill on preventive medication, please contact your team at Kings Trail Animal Hospital.