Heartworm Awareness Month

Heartworm Awareness MonthWe have so many responsibilities when it comes to keeping our beloved pets healthy and vibrant.  We feed them a healthy diet, make sure they get their exercise, groom them, and give them lots of hugs and kisses, but it’s important to remember that preventative medicine is critical to your furry one’s health.  For instance, none of us want to hear the words, “Your pet has heartworms.”

What is a heartworm?
Heartworms are long slender worms that grow upwards of 12 inches and tangle themselves around the heart, lungs and vascular structures.  The tiny microscopic baby worms (microfilaria) will develop into small larvae within 10-14 days.  These larvae will then be full grown within approximately 50 days.  That is why it is vital to give your pets the standard preventative medication on a regular basis, as well as to test them annually for the parasitic disease.

How it’s transmitted
Heartworms affect dogs, cats, ferrets, wolves, coyotes, and foxes.  The prevalence of coyotes and foxes in our area is reason enough to make certain that we prevent the transmission of heartworms to our cherished pets.

The mosquito is the primary enforcer of the spreading of these worms.  For example, a mosquito bites a coyote that is infected with heartworms the coyote has the tiny microscopic worms swimming throughout its bloodstream.  The mosquito will harbor the worms in its blood and then when it bites your pet, the microfilaria then infects your pet’s bloodstream.  This is how the process begins, and at this point, your pet could be safely treated if detection and symptoms were that easy to spot, but in reality, heartworm disease is a silent killer.

If an infected mosquito bites your pet, but your pet is protected by heartworm medication, the microfilaria will die off, unable to infect your little furry friend.  But if your pet is not protected correctly, the effects are devastating.

Once these worms start to grow, they can live for up to 7 years in dogs and up to 3 years in cats.  If caught early enough, surgery is typically done to remove them from the heart and organs that they’ve tangled around and embedded themselves into.  If it’s in the late stages of the disease, your pet may not survive.

The symptoms of Heartworm Disease
• Fatigue
• Weight loss
• Lack of appetite
• Coughing
• Swollen stomach
• Cardiovascular issues

• Asthmatic symptoms
• Coughing
• Swollen stomach
• Vomiting
• Lack of appetite

12/12 Method
In Florida where it’s warm all year long, mosquitos are quite prevalent throughout the entire twelve-
month calendar. That’s why testing is the key to your pet’s diagnosis.   One helpful reminder that veterinary professionals use is the 12/12 method.  This helps pet owners to remember to give the preventative heart medicine every month (12 months) of the year and to get an annual heartworm blood test (12 months) yearly.  This is the best way to protect your pets.  It’s better to be proactive in fending off these pesky worms than having to be reactive and seeing your pet suffering from the devastating symptoms, or worse, losing your pet altogether.

The test is simple and easily performed in your veterinarian’s office.  The lab will then conduct a study on the blood to see if there is any presence of heartworms.  If it’s in the very early stages, sometimes the preventative medicine will be able to inhibit the growth and life of the worms.  Early detection is your pet’s best chance of survival and cure.  But it’s important to keep in mind that it can take six months for your pet to test positive after they are infected.

Best Friends Animal Hospital believes in providing quality health care for your pet in a warm and welcoming environment. Their doctors routinely attend educational seminars to stay abreast of the latest medical treatments and technologies. Their hospital also prides itself on having state-of-the-art equipment including a digital X-ray machine and surgical laser, both of which are used in human medicine. The digital X-ray machine allows them to take high-quality radiographs in seconds and gives their doctors images with better diagnostic quality. The surgical laser helps to decrease pain and bleeding as well as increase healing speed of the incision.

Best Friends Animal Hospital offers free 24-hour access to your pet’s medical record through a pet portal, as well as home delivery of your pet’s prescriptions through an online store. Their online Pharmacy carries prescription medications, heartworm, flea and tick preventative, pet food, treats, and toys.

The doctors and staff are devoted to helping your pets’ live longer, healthier and happier lives because they understand what an important member of your family your pet. Their knowledgeable staff is available to answer any questions you may have, and they look forward to seeing you and your pet(s) soon. Please visit their website to find out more, or call them to book your appointment.

Best Friends Animal Hospital
12220 Towne Lake Dr., Suite 50
Fort Myers, FL 33913
Phone: 239-768-7387

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