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February 2015: The Truth About Heartworm Disease

Love is in the air this month as we celebrate Valentine’s Day however there is one creature that we don’t have any love for; the heartworm.  This month at CanadaVet we bust five common heartworm myths and show why prevention is the key to a healthy, happy and playful pet.

Myth #1:  Indoor cats and dogs don’t need heartworm protection.

All pets are at risk of heartworms.  Both cats and dogs can get infected from mosquitoes inside the house.  Prevention is the key in keeping your pets healthy, especially cats, as there isn’t a treatment available for heartworm disease in cats.

Myth #2:  Pets only need to be protected from heartworm in the summer months when the mosquitoes are active.

The American Heartworm Society suggests that all pets — regardless of where they live — should be protected all year round. Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition, so make sure that your pet is protected with a heartworm preventative, such as a tablet or topical treatment.

Myth #3:   Even if my pet gets heartworm disease it’s easy to eliminate.

Heartworms congregate around your pet’s blood vessels and cause a decrease in blood flow to the heart and other major organs.  Overtime, and if not treated, damage to your pets lungs and heart can be severe, even fatal.  Preventing heartworms in the first place is the best choice for your dog or cat; particularly as treatment in dogs is expensive, can take months to complete and can come with severe complications.

Myth #4: My pet gets monthly treatment so he doesn’t need a heartworm test.

Even though monthly preventative is very effective, there is no medication able to claim that it is 100% effective. Annual heartworm tests are endorsed by the American Heartworm Society (AHS) and are considered the gold standard in heartworm disease prevention. Because heartworms can do serious damage to the heart and lungs in a short amount of time, annual testing is the best way to keep pets protected.

Myth #5:  I’ll know immediately if my pet has heartworms.

Recently infected dogs and cats do not outwardly show any signs of heartworm disease.  Once signs are observed the disease may include couching, laboured breathing, lethargy, rapid tiring during exercise and a swollen abdomen.   Detection is even trickier in cats as signs of heartworm disease (weight loss, coughing, and intermittent vomiting) are similar to signs of many other feline diseases.

For heartworm prevention for dogs click here.

For heartworm for prevention for cats click here.

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