April is Heartworm Disease Awareness Month. Dr. Barbara Braziel, associate veterinarian at CFVC, is very passionate about preventing heartworm disease. She shares her knowledge on the disease, its prevention, and its treatment.
A mosquito bite can be deadly!! We all think of West Nile Disease when we hear this, but for dogs and cats, there is a more common killer called Heartworm Disease. The good news is, Heartworm Disease can be prevented with a monthly pill or monthly topical application costing approximately $100 per year.
Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes. First, a mosquito bites a dog or cat which is already heartworm positive and picks up microscopic baby heartworms called microfilaria when they collect some blood. As the mosquito travels on and bites its next victims, it injects these baby heartworms into each unfortunate pet. These baby heartworms then travel through the muscles, into the bloodstream and eventually to the heart and associated blood vessels. Here, they mature to adult heartworms measuring 9 – 12 inches long! Just one of these worms in a cat’s heart causes death. In a dog’s heart, the size and number of heartworms continues to increase until the pet passes away because the heart is unable to pump blood past the heavy worm infestation. It is a cruel and painful death for the pet!
There is a treatment for dogs that are heartworm positive. There is no treatment for cats! The drugs needed are harsh and the treatment is long and hard on the dog. A heartworm positive dog’s activity must be immediately restricted to reduce the workload of the heart and lungs, which are already compromised by the disease. This restriction continues for months since the full treatment last for 4 – 12 months. Even with treatment, there can be permanent damage to the lungs and heart which shortens the life of the pet. Additionally, treatment is expensive, costing $1000 or more.
Barbara Braziel encourages you to protect your pet from these preventable diseases. Come in for a heartworm test and start prevention TODAY!