• By: Laura Lynn O’nan Education Coordinator

Heartworm Awareness

The month of April is Heartworm Awareness Month and as this month winds down, we would like to talk about this deadly parasitic disease that affects pets all around the country. As the warmer weather starts to show itself, so do irritating pests like mosquitoes. Did you know they not only leave an itchy bump behind after a bite, but when it comes to your furry family members mosquitoes can leave behind a parasite, known as heartworm?

Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes carrying heartworm larva. They bite your pet, releasing the larva just under the skin; from there it travels to the blood stream and feeds off the nourishment of its host. This results in the spread, maturing and multiplying of these pesky worms inside of your pet’s body. Heartworms cause major health issues when they set up home within the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels, which become inflamed and can be blocked. Restricted blood flow to the heart and lungs can cause heart failure and lung disease, if left untreated.

A few main symptoms to look for in both dogs and cats include: fatigue, weight loss, decreased appetite and a persistent cough. However, keep in mind symptoms may not even be present until a severe infestation has developed. If heartworms are left undiagnosed or untreated, long-term damage to vital organs may occur or pets can pass away unexpectedly.

When it comes to protecting your pets from heartworms, prevention is the key. Heartworm medications are designed to kill the larvae before they develop into an adult and begin to multiply. It is important to continue to administer a treatment year-round. Both topical and oral medications are available through your veterinarian’s office. Even if your pet is on routine heartworm prevention, you should have them tested for heartworms once a year. The test is performed of blood and results are usually given within ten minutes. If your pet tests positive, you will need to take action right away. Additional testing, exercise restriction and starting treatment are the first steps in a long journey to recovery and becoming heartworm-free. For more information on keeping your furry family free of these parasitic worms, contact us at 859-873-5491 or manager@woodfordhumane.org.

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