With as little as one bite from a mesquito your pet can become infected with heartworm disease! The American Heartworm Society estimates that at any one time over a million pets are infected with adult heartworms.
Most pets show no signs of heartworm disease until the late stages. Possible signs of heartworm in your pet:
- Difficulty breathing
- Consistent mild cough
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Mosquitoes can carry microfilariae by consuming a meal from an infected animal. In a matter of 10-14 days the microfilariae mature into infective larvae. Then when the infected mosquito bites your pet the larvae enters your pet’s bloodstream. This is where the heartworms grow and invade your pets heart. The heartworms can grow to a foot long and live for up to seven years leading your pet to be at high risk for heart failure. Heartworms impair blood circulation, resulting in damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Serious damage may occur, even before outward clinical signs are detected by the owner.
Initially your pet will be given an antibiotic to kill bacteria that lives within heartworms. You will then need to schedule a series of visits for your pet. During these visits your pet will receive an injection that kills adult heartworms. Keeping these appointments is crucial to the recovery of your pet. Heartworms are not cured overnight but rather over several months.
As always we recommend regular veterinary visits as a preventative measure. Medications such as Heartgard, Nexgard, Trifexis, and Advantage Multi are great preventatives that are given once a month. It is crucial that these are given once a month to be effective. If you have trouble remembering Heartgard provides heart stickers to add to your calendar and they also have a Heartgard reminder app available for iPhones and Androids.
We also recommend, as well as the American Heartworm Association, getting your pet heartworm tested once a year. Previously we were heartworm testing every two years but with the recent increase in heartworms being seen in El Paso we highly recommend annual test.