Your dog or cat can acquire heartworm disease from an infected mosquito. It takes just a single bite. Once inside your pet’s body, the heartworm can reproduce and grow up to 12 inches long. Now that the warm weather season is here, your pet has an even greater likelihood of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
When to Start Heartworm Protection
Heartworm are far more prevalent in dogs than they are in cats. However, a cat’s lower body weight and smaller size means that heartworm infestation is more likely to cause death. Prevention is essential since no heartworm protocol currently exists for cats. Puppies can start taking heartworm prevention medication by the age of two months. They don’t need to complete testing while still so young. We do recommend any puppy over age six months has a negative result on a heartworm test before starting any type of prevention product.
Getting a heartworm test for your dog or puppy is a simple procedure that only requires us to obtain a blood sample. With cats, several blood tests may be necessary before one of our veterinarians can make a definitive diagnosis. Kittens can begin a preventive product as soon as they meet the age and weight requirements printed on the product instructions. Most kittens are ready to begin heartworm prevention by nine weeks of age.
Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs and Cats
Dogs with heartworm tend to show varied symptoms due to where the heartworm is located within their body. Common symptoms include:
- Fatigue, with or without exertion
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
With cats, the first sign of heartworm can be difficulty breathing or sudden death. Some pets don’t show any signs of heartworm infestation at all. Keep in mind that even indoor pets still need protection from heartworm disease since it’s easy for infected mosquitos to get inside your home.
How We Treat Dogs for Heartworm Disease
The first step after we identify heartworm in your dog is for him to complete a course of heartworm preventives, antibiotics, and steroids. Once those are complete, he needs to come to Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo several times over the next 60 days for a series of injections that kill adult heartworms. We will need to observe your dog after each injection as well. Approximately six months later, we ask you to bring your dog in for a follow-up. We will check to make sure that no more adult worms or larvae are present.
We Are Happy to Recommend a Specific Heartworm Prevention Product
The effects of heartworm disease can be devastating, but the good news is that it’s entirely preventable. The staff at Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo is happy to recommend a specific brand or type of heartworm prevention product based on your pet’s age, lifestyle, and other factors. If you have additional questions about parasite control or need a demonstration on how to administer medication, please contact us to request an appointment.