Is Heartworm Prevention Really Necessary?

Pet owners want what’s best for their pets—right? Of course you do! And that means regular vet visits, feeding them healthy foods and snacks, and getting them enough exercise. Yet one thing that many pet owners overlook is heartworm prevention. Yet, year-round heartworm prevention is a must, no matter where you live.

The Risk of Heartworm Disease 

At Pet Evolution, we get the privilege of talking to a lot of pet owners, after all, pet stores are in the people business as much as they are in the pet business. And, we’re often surprised to find out that pet owners have the following misconceptions.

  • Pets can only get heartworm disease in the spring and summer
  • Heartworm disease in dogs is only a risk if you live in the southern part of the United States
  • If your pet gets sick with heartworm disease, treatment is easy 

Unfortunately, these are certainly misconceptions and far from the truth. Your pet can get heartworm disease at any time of year no matter where you live. But don’t just take our word for it. The American Heartworm Society (AHS) gathers data from veterinary practices and animal shelters every three years to see the effects of heartworm disease throughout the country. 

Consequently, they put together a map showing how widespread the disease is. As you can see from the map at the link provided, heartworm disease is present just about anywhere there is, even a minor population.

But just what are the risks, and why is it such a big deal? And how do pets even get it? Only through mosquitoes. Here’s how it happens: When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up tiny baby worms called microfilariae. These babies grow into young worms inside the mosquito. After about two weeks, they’re ready to move into a new host. 

When a mosquito bites another pet, it passes the young worms along. This is the only way pets get heartworms. No mosquito, no heartworm disease. But since mosquitoes can be almost everywhere and anytime, it’s a risk all year round.

How Continuous Heartworm Prevention Can Help

Keeping your pet safe from heartworms is super important, and here’s a tip that might surprise you: even when it’s cold and you see fewer mosquitoes buzzing around, your furry friend is not completely safe from heartworm disease. That’s why vets are all about giving pets heartworm prevention medicine all year long.

You might think, “It’s cold where I live, so my pet is probably okay, right?” Not exactly. Vets have found pets with heartworms in every single state, even the really cold ones! For the medicine to protect your pet properly, it must always be in their system at the right levels. If you take a break during the colder months, and a warm snap brings out the mosquitoes early, your pet could be at risk because they’re unprotected.

Whether it’s a pill, a shot, or a spot-on treatment, all heartworm prevention medications work by killing heartworm babies (larvae) before they grow into big problem worms (adults). Remember, these medications don’t work on adult heartworms, so keeping up with the prevention is key.

Here are a few quick reasons why year-round heartworm prevention is a must-do for both cats and dogs:

  • Mosquitoes can show up unexpectedly, even in cooler weather.
  • Heartworms have been found in pets in all 50 states; no state is 100% safe.
  • Medicine levels must stay steady in your pet’s body to be effective.
  • Preventing heartworms is way easier and cheaper than treating them after they arrive.

The Best Heartworm Prevention for Dogs 

There are a wide variety of heartworm medications on the market. While it may be more expensive, your best bet is to order the medication directly through your veterinarian. This ensures you get what you pay for and the exact dosage your pet requires. 

Here are a few things to check for when shopping for heartworm medications:

  • Your dog’s weight: Heartworm meds come in different doses based on weight. Giving the right amount is key for it to work.
  • Your dog’s age: Puppies have different needs than older dogs. Make sure the medication is suitable for your dog’s life stage.

Choosing the right medication ensures your dog is protected against heartworms effectively. Always talk to your vet to find the best fit for your pet’s health and lifestyle.

Keep Your Pet Safe and Healthy

Take care of your pet year-round by giving them heartworm medication. If you don’t, they can develop very serious illnesses and long-term health effects such as heart failure and damage to other organs. Don’t wait for symptoms, as heartworm disease can advance silently. 

By choosing year-round prevention, you’re taking a proactive step towards ensuring your pet enjoys a long, happy life free from the dangers of heartworms. Contact your veterinarian today for the best heartworm medication for your pet. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do heartworm preventives work?

All heartworm medications, whether applied to the pet directly, given as a pill, or as an injection, work to eliminate the larval (immature) stages of the heartworm parasite. 

How often should my dog take heartworm prevention medication?

At Pet Evolution, we agree with veterinary guidelines that your pet should be treated with preventive medication all year round. Most medications are taken monthly; however, following the instructions for your selected product is important. 

Can indoor pets skip heartworm prevention?

Your cat, dog, or ferret all require heartworm prevention, even if they never set foot outdoors. Mosquitoes have a sneaky way of accessing homes and buildings, so your pet is also susceptible to heartworm infection indoors. 

What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?

Signs of heartworm disease in dogs can include coughing, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. As the disease progresses, dogs may develop a swollen belly due to excess fluid, indicating advanced heart disease.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?

Heartworm disease can be harder to detect in cats and may present subtle signs that mimic other illnesses. Symptoms can include coughing, strained breathing, bouts of vomiting, loss of appetite, or noticeable weight loss. Some cats may have difficulty walking, have bouts of fainting or seizures, or suffer from the accumulation of fluid in their belly. The first cats may experience sudden collapse or death in more severe cases.