By Niki Tudge
Many pet owners are unaware of the significant affect heartworms can have on their pet’s health. Heartworms are solely transmitted by mosquitoes which leave animals in the south, and especially Florida, at risk year round. After biting an infected dog, the mosquito injects circulating microfilaria (the worm larvae) into another animal where they then migrate to the heart, maturing over time until the worms eventually obstruct blood flow and damage the heart muscle. If untreated, heartworms will result in significant health complications and eventually death of the infected animal. It is important to note that cats are also at risk of infection; however, there is currently no treatment available for the mature stages in the heart.
Administering monthly heartworm prevention functions by cleaning out circulating microfilaria before they can reach the heart. If an animal has not been receiving prevention, the first step is to visit your veterinarian for a heartworm test and a thorough physical exam before administering any form of heartworm prevention. Heartworms require six months to be diagnosed through a blood test. If the first test is negative it is always a good idea to repeat again six months later. There are many prevention options available for both dogs and cats and you should consult with their veterinarian to choose which preventative is appropriate for each individual situation. Once a prevention regimen has been implemented it is vital that it be performed year round.