Heartworm disease is one of the worst parasitic infections your pet can get. Unfortunately, it’s very common in the southern and southeastern United States, including Florida. Spread via mosquito bite, heartworm can affect dogs, cats, and ferrets, but the disease is most dangerous for dogs. That’s because dogs are a definitive host for heartworms. The worms can complete entire life cycles and reproduce inside a dog’s body.
All it takes is a single mosquito bite for your dog to be infected with this devastating parasite. The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to prevent heartworm. The team at Caring Paws Animal Hospital would like to share our top heartworm prevention tips for dogs and cats.
Pet Health 101: Heartworm Prevention Basics
There are two ways to prevent severe heartworm disease in pets:
- Heartworm prevention medication
- Yearly heartworm screenings
We use these tools together because prevention medication only prevents heartworm. It cannot treat the disease once a pet is infected. At Caring Paws, we follow the American Heartworm Society’s prevention and testing guidelines for dogs, cats, and ferrets.
Heartworm Prevention for Dogs
If your puppy is younger than seven months old, you can start him on heartworm prevention medication without testing him first. This is because it takes a minimum of six months for a dog to test positive after an infected mosquito bites him.
Puppies who receive heartworm prevention medication when they’re six months or younger should get tested for heartworm six months after they begin the preventive medications. After six more months, another screening is recommended. After that, yearly screenings work just fine.
Dogs who haven’t begun heartworm prevention medication by the time they’re seven months old or older must be tested for heartworm before they can begin. With our in-house heartworm tests at Caring Paws Animal Hospital, you’ll get results back within 10 to 20 minutes.
If your dog is heartworm-free, she can begin heartworm prevention right away. If not, we can put together a treatment plan to start tackling the disease immediately.
During your dog’s yearly wellness visit, we’ll test for heartworm and make sure your dog has everything she needs for prevention. Even though heartworm prevention medication is highly effective, it’s not foolproof. And the earlier we catch heartworm disease, the more likely it is that your dog will recover.
Heartworm Prevention for Cats
Cats are a lot less likely to get heartworm than dogs. They are not definitive hosts. But they can still get heartworm, so prevention is important. Like dogs, cats should get tested for heartworm before they begin prevention medication.
Unlike dogs, cats can often get rid of heartworm on their own. But the worms can make your kitty very sick and cause lasting damage. And even indoor cats can get heartworm. Remember, all it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito!
Heartworm Prevention for Ferrets
Ferrets need heartworm prevention just like dogs and cats. Heartworm can make your furry friend extremely sick, and there’s no way to treat heartworm in our weasel friends. Our veterinarians can help you find the best heartworm prevention medication for ferrets.
Ask Us About Heartworm Prevention
If your dog, cat, or ferret hasn’t had heartworm medication in a while, schedule an appointment with our veterinary team as soon as possible. We can test your pet for heartworm and get them started on a prevention medication or treatment plan right away. We offer a variety of prescription heartworm medications through our online pharmacy.