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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

Heartworm: Fact or Fiction

2020-06-24

Heartworms are silent but deadly. These parasites pass quietly from mosquitos into your pet’s bloodstream and wreak havoc on their health. While you may never lay your eyes on a heartworm, they are present in our area and can infect your dog, cat, or ferret.

To help shine some light on just how dangerous heartworm disease is, we thought “Heartworm: Fact or Fiction” could help expose the severe risk of these parasites.

How many of these did you know?

Heartworms can grow up to a foot in length and live up to seven years: FACT

It’s true! A heartworm’s lifespan inside a dog is 5 to 7 years, and female heartworms can reach 12 inches in length. Their male counterparts reach about 6 inches in length.

Cats cannot get heartworms: FICTION

Cats can contract heartworms, though it’s typically not as deadly since heartworms have a difficult time surviving in a cat’s bloodstream. Some cats don’t show any signs of heartworm infection, while others may suddenly suffer heart failure.

My pet is at risk of heartworms all year long: FACT

Dogs and cats can contract heartworm during any season. It just takes one mosquito bite on a warm day to get infected.

You cannot adopt a dog that has heartworms: FICTION

Many shelters will adopt out dogs that test positive for heartworm and help the family with treatment. The expense is often paid for by the shelter, and they typically use a vet that works at their facility or that they have a relationship with.

My dog doesn’t need a heartworm test to go on heartworm prevention: FICTION

Monthly preventative medicines do not kill adult heartworms. If they have already infected your dog, they will continue to damage their circulatory system. If their larvae are present, preventative medicine can send your dog’s body into shock.

Studies show that dogs that go on heartworm prevention while infected with heartworms will likely pass away within two years.

I can always get my pet treated if they contract heartworms: FICTION

While there is a treatment available for dogs, there is no treatment for cats with heartworms. Furthermore, not all dogs are physically well enough to endure the treatment necessary to kill the heartworms or the aftermath of heartworm segments that circulate through the body.

Heartworm treatment is expensive, tedious, and can be painful for dogs. Most are required to be on bed rest or exercise restriction for 4 to 8 weeks.

I only need to worry about heartworms if my dog develops a cough: FICTION

Some dogs are asymptomatic while suffering from heartworms. Other dogs only experience an occasional cough.

Heartworm prevention is too expensive: FICTION

Effective and safe heartworm prevention for cats and dogs saves money when compared to the cost of diagnosis and treatment. Most importantly, heartworm prevention can protect you from the loss of your pet, and the burden of knowing their condition was preventable.

 

Image credit: Inge Wallumrød | Pexels