Protecting Your Pet’s Heart

Heartworm disease is one of the most serious illnesses your dog or cat can contract. This disease slowly steals your pet’s ability to breathe and steadily takes their life. Without proper preventative care, no dog or cat is immune from heartworms. While your pet probably occupies a huge spot in your heart, heartworms grow, multiply, and expand to fill your pet’s heart. These parasites damage organs and prevent blood from circulating around the body.

Luckily, pet owners have the ability to protect their pets from this fatal disease.

What Should All Pet Parents Know About Heartworm Disease?

All it takes is one mosquito bite for a dog to cat to become infected with heartworms. When an infected mosquito bites a pet, it deposits heartworm larvae into the bloodstream. The larvae grow and develop into long, thin, strand-like worms. Heartworms go on to reproduce and multiply, eventually interrupting the natural circulation of blood, clogging the lungs, and damaging the heart, kidneys, and liver.

What else should you know? Over time, one heartworm larvae can produce up to 250 worms living inside your dog or cat. Heartworms grow from 4 to 12 inches and live up to seven years.

As these worms thrive, they cause major damage to vital organs, making it hard for pets to breathe and eventually stopping the heart.

Is there a treatment for heartworms?

There is currently no treatment for heartworms in cats.

For dogs, there is a treatment, but it’s costly and complicated. The most common treatment is three rounds of melarsomine dihydrochloride, which contains trace amounts of arsenic. While this kills the heartworms, they remain trapped in a dog’s bloodstream. Even after they begin to breakdown, they can still cause heart failure.

How Can You Prevent Your Pet from Getting Heartworms?

Heartworm disease is deadly, but you can protect your cat or dog through prevention. Visiting us for an exam is the first step to protect your pet. We can check your pet for heartworms and prescribe a preventative medicine that works for your pet. Preventative prescriptions come in chewable, injectable, and topical forms.

1. Chewable and Oral Prescription Heartworm Prevention

Heartgard and other chewable preventative medicines can be given to pets at home. Many have flavor additives that make them more palatable for pets. There are also oral medicines that can be given to dogs and cats with meals.

2. Injectable Heartworm Prevention

ProHeart 12 and other injectable heartworm preventative prescriptions are convenient and effective. We can administer one quick shot and your dog is protected from heartworm for an entire year. Since year-long protection is more effective, this method is a one-and-done with your pet’s annual exam.

Injectables like ProHeart 12 are excellent for busy dog parents. Their long-lasting protection means that you don’t have to risk forgetting to give your dog a monthly chewable.

3. Topical Medications

Topical heartworm preventatives can be given to a dog or cat with just a few drops on the back of the neck. They work by being absorbed into your pet’s skin and killing heartworm larvae.

One drawback of topicals is that they can transfer or wipe off from contact. It’s easy to forget your dog has medicine on its neck and accidentally stroke this area, which can be dangerous for unsuspecting adults and children. Sometimes dogs and cats can lick or groom the area where the medicine is applied, which can also cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Pay careful attention to where you apply any topical medicines and caution anyone interacting with your pet to stay away from the area. Monitor your pets closely to make sure they aren’t licking or rubbing the medication off of their fur. 

You Can Prevent Your Pet from Getting Heartworms

Your pet only has one life and one very important heart, and one mosquito can take that all away. Heartworm disease is deadly and heartbreaking. Don’t risk running out of your pet’s preventative medicine or letting your dog or cat go unprotected. Schedule an appointment and we’ll be happy to discuss your options. We can provide your pet with a year’s worth of heartworm protection during an exam with ProHeart 12. Give us a call today.



Image credit: Dominika Roseclay | Pexels


After-Hours Emergencies

After Hours Veterinary Care
1014 Dale Street North
St. Paul, MN 55117
(Inside Como Park Animal Hospital just north of downtown St. Paul)
24-hour care for multiple species

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1163 Helmo Avenue N
Oakdale, MN 55128


Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1542 7th St. W.
St. Paul, MN 55012
(located 2 blocks east of 35E)