One of the most common questions heard by our veterinarians during an annual wellness exam is, “Does my pet really need heartworm prevention?” To put it simply: yes! Even if your pet is considered “indoors-only,” all cats and dogs should be on a heartworm prevention medication.
Previously, it was not recommended by most veterinarians for pets to be on heartworm preventatives due to the low risk in Las Vegas. However, in recent years, the number of heartworm cases in Nevada has been steadily increasing. Due to the increased number of cases, it is now highly recommended for both cats and dogs to be on year-round heartworm prevention medication.
The American Heartworm Society estimates that more than a million pets in the United States have heartworms, despite heartworm disease being preventable. With a combination of medicine and education, a heartworm-free nation is entirely possible. The more owners know about this disease and use preventive medicine, the less the disease is able to spread.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms are a parasite that live inside an infected animal’s lungs and heart. Overtime, they block the nearby blood vessels, causing lung damage, organ damage, heart disease, and death in some cases. Although heartworms affect primarily dogs, many animals can become infected like cats, ferrets, and wildlife.
Heartworms are spread by mosquitos. Where there is a high mosquito population, there likely is a higher rate of heartworm disease in pets.
Are there heartworms in Las Vegas?
You may have heard rumors that heartworms don’t exist in arid climates like Las Vegas, but there have been infection cases reported in all 50 states. In fact, in recent years, the number of cases in Las Vegas has been steadily increasing. This can be from a number of factors, like weather conditions. Wet winters can cause spikes, while droughts can lead to declines. Increased numbers of out-of-state movers can also cause a spike in numbers.
How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworms?
Fortunately, heartworm disease is entirely preventable. In order to be prescribed heartworm medication, our veterinarians must first ensure that there is no present infection in your pet. They do this through a simple blood test. Once our veterinarians have verified there is no present infection, they will prescribe your pet a year’s worth of preventative medication. Heartworm tests are done annually for two reasons: firstly, to make sure the preventative measures are working and secondly, to catch if there is an infection. Heartworm disease does not have any symptoms at first. Once your pet is showing symptoms, it means that they’ve been present in the heart and lungs for a while.
What are the types of heartworm medication and how do they work?
There are many different brands of heartworm medication. Most are administered in monthly doses, either topically (applied to skin) or orally. Always consult with your veterinarian on the best preventative plan for your pet.
Heartworm preventative medications work by killing any larvae over the last month, which is why it is administered monthly. This is also why it’s so important to stick with the schedule recommended by your vet. Always carefully track the date, and set reminders in your phone! You can even use our PetDesk app to notify you of when your pet is due for their next dose or annual heartworm test. It’s important to note that adult worms are not susceptible to the preventative heartworm medication.
What are the symptoms of a heartworm infection?
Heartworm disease is an invisible, but sometimes fatal disease. If your pet is experiencing any of the following symptoms, please bring them to your nearest PetMedic Hospital:
- Labored breathing
- Weight loss
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