April is National Heartworm Awareness Month! Veterinarians and pet organizations across the nation are educating pet parents on the prevention of heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of dogs, cats, ferrets and other mammals. It causes severe lung disease, heart failure and damages other organs in the body. The best way to fight heartworm disease is prevention and education for pet parents.
When should my pet be tested?
Your dog should be tested every year for heartworm infection. This test can usually be done during a routine visit to your vet. According to the American Heartworm Society, even dogs who are on heartworm prevention year-round should be tested to ensure the program is working. Cats should be tested before being put on medicine. Your vet will determine when it is appropriate to retest. Since there is no treatment for cats with heartworm disease, prevention is crucial.
What causes heartworm?
Heartworm is transmitted from mosquitos infected with a roundworm. Once a dog or cat is bitten by the infected mosquito, the roundworm’s larvae enters the skin and enters the bloodstream. It ends up living mainly in the heart, lungs and blood vessels. Up to 250 heartworms can live in one dog. Heartworms cannot be passed between pets or humans.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of heartworm in dogs and cats include cough, fatigue, decrease in appetite, weight loss, and a disinterest in activities.
What is the treatment?
As mentioned before, prevention is the best treatment for heartworm. If your pet is exposed to heartworm your vet will likely want to start treatment as soon as possible. These treatments can be timely and grueling for both pet and pet owner. Not to mention, costly, ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 dollars.
Luckily, pet insurance can help offset the costs of treatment for diseases like heartworm. In addition, pet insurance through your Alumni Association will cover illnesses, accidents, diagnostic treatment, surgery, prescription medications, emergency care, and more! Check out The Alumni Insurance Program to see if your Alumni Association offers special discounts for pet parents.