It's important to protect your pet from heartworm all year long, but it’s especially urgent in the warm weather months with more mosquitos present. Infected mosquitos can transmit heartworm disease to your dog or cat with a single bite. They can also reproduce once inside your pet’s body.
 
Although far more dogs are affected by heartworm than cats, the parasite is even more destructive for cats. This is due to their smaller body size and the fact that no heartworm treatment exists for cats.  We recommend that puppies start taking preventive medication for heartworm by eight weeks of age. Puppies that young don’t need testing before starting a prevention product. However, puppies over six months old should have a negative heartworm test before starting any type of preventive product.
 
Heartworm testing in dogs requires only a simple blood test. Testing is a bit more complicated in cats and requires several blood tests before a veterinarian can make a diagnosis. This testing is typically done at the request of the cat owner when he or she suspects the animal may have contracted heartworm disease. 
 
How to Spot Heartworm Infection in Your Pet
Difficulty breathing is the most common sign of heartworm infection in cats. Dogs tend to have more varied symptoms due to the heartworm living in the heart ventricles and the actual heart. These symptoms include:
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue, with or without exertion
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
It’s also important to keep in mind that some pets don’t show any sign of heartworm. This is especially true with cats, whose first symptom might be sudden death. Since mosquitos can get into your home easily, even pets that stay indoors need heartworm protection. Regular preventive care appointments at Battletown Animal Clinic are essential as well. 
 
Heartworm Treatment for Dogs
Once Dr. Henke has positively identified heartworm in your dog, the next step is to complete a course of antibiotics, heartworm preventives, and steroids. Next, your dog receives a series of injections over the course of 60 days to kill adult heartworms. This requires staying at Battletown Animal Hospital for observation. Another dose of steroids may be necessary at this time as well. Lastly, you need to return with your dog in six months for a follow-up to ensure that all larvae and adult worms have died. 
Ask Us for a Product Recommendation

Preventing heartworm is far easier than treating it. We carry Heartgard Plus, Interceptor, and Revolution monthly heartworm prevention products. Dr. Henke will take your pet’s age, lifestyle, species, and weight into consideration before recommending a specific product. He will also go over how to administer the medication during your pet’s regular preventive care exam. Although heartworm can have devastating consequences, the good news is that it’s 100 percent preventable. 

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