Preventing your pet from becoming unwell is one of your primary responsibilities. Unfortunately, there are many unpleasant and even dangerous diseases that can pose a threat to the health and wellbeing of your furriest family member. The good news is that thanks to modern veterinary medicine, more viruses and infections can be prevented than ever before, enabling your pet to live a longer, happier life.
Heartworm disease is just one of the many serious, and potentially life-threatening illnesses facing your furbaby that can – and should – be prevented.
Heartworms, like other sorts of internal worms, are parasites. They grow bigger and stronger by feeding off the blood and nutrients that serve your pet, making your animal weaker as they grow stronger. Heartworms look like cooked spaghetti and a fully-grown female can reach 12 inches in length. Once they reach adulthood they can breed and multiply. Worms can live for between five and seven years, and so over time a pet can accumulate dozens of parasites living inside them. The more heartworms your pet has, the more damage is being caused to her body. Left untreated, she will almost certainly die from the condition.
Many pet owners worry that heartworms can be passed from animal to animal. However, heartworms can only be contracted through a bite from a mosquito that contains heartworm larvae. The mosquito will have become a carrier by drinking the blood of an infected animal. Once the larvae are inside the mosquito, they can be passed back out via their mouth into the open wound caused when they bite another creature. Dogs are the most natural host for heartworms, but cats and occasionally ferrets may also be affected.
After the mosquito has bitten your pet, the larvae migrate through your pet to the blood vessels in his heart and lungs. It is here that they make their home and, after around six months, mature into adults capable of breeding.
Regrettably, mosquito bites are notoriously difficult to avoid, even when using external repellents. The best way to keep your pet safe from heartworms is to ensure that they follow a strict schedule of preventive care, which includes medications designed specifically to target this type of parasite.
Preventive medication for heartworm
Veterinary medicine has evolved and improved dramatically during the last few decades, and both treatments and preventatives are now safer and more reliable than they were previously.
There are many different brands of heartworm preventive, but most take the form of an orally-administered tablet on either a monthly or semi-annual schedule. The ingredients in these tablets target and kill heartworms when they are still immature, preventing them from completing their lifecycle. This stops them reproducing and putting the life of your pet at risk.
When you register with a veterinarian at Memphis Animal Clinic you should be asked about what, if any, steps you have taken to protect your pet from heartworms, as well as many other infectious diseases. Our Memphis vet can then use this information to recommend an appropriate program of preventive care. If your animal is older than 6 months, it may be necessary for her to have a blood test to rule out the presence of adult heartworm before protective treatment can begin.
We firmly believe that preventative care can help your furbaby to live a much longer, healthier and even happier life. If you require more information about how to prevent heartworm or any other infectious conditions facing your pet, we would be happy to help. Our veterinarians at Memphis Animal Clinic provide comprehensive preventative programs for a range of different animals, as well as early detection and treatment of all major diseases. To speak to one of our knowledgeable and friendly team members, please call or email us today.