Spring may be here, but that also means so is heartworm season. Wherever mosquitoes are found, dogs and cats are at risk of contracting heartworm disease. The transmission of the heartworm disease only occurs through the bite of an infected mosquito. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states although the parasite is most commonly found in the Southeast and Midwest United States, and is widespread in Illinois.
The bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog or cat Heartworm disease if they are not properly protected. Once a pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, it takes about six months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. They then lodge in the right side of the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels and begin reproducing. Adult worms can grow up to 12 inches long and can live 5-7 years. A large dog can have as many as 250 worms in its system.
Heartworm disease can cause serious problems in pets, and can even lead to death. The most common signs of a heartworm infection are a loss of energy, difficult breathing, coughing (especially after exercise), weight loss and fainting. Unfortunately, heartworm can cause much of the damage before the pet shows any clinical signs.
Heartworm disease is extremely costly and difficult to cure. However, it is very simple to prevent. A routine blood test for heartworm given by a veterinarian once each year is suggested for all dogs and cats. Once this simple blood test is done, your veterinarian can prescribe a monthly Heartworm preventive, such as Heartgard or Revolution. These should be given to your pet every month, all year long.
Don’t wait until the mosquitoes are out in full force to start your pet on a heartworm preventative. Right now, Animal Welfare League is running a special on Heartgard that lasts until the end of April. If you purchase one year of Heartgard preventatives for your dog, you will get the heartworm test ($21.50 value) for free. The cost of the Heartgard is dependent upon the weight of your pet. Visit our low-cost veterinarian clinic for more information or call, or call 708-636-8586.