Every year, veterinarians brace for a disease that has seriously affected our pets for many years. However this affliction is easily preventable using affordable and safe medications. Occurrences of Heartworms both in dogs and cats continue to escalate and the fee for treatment of (when recognized soon enough) is much more that the expense to prevent. So, how will you offer protection to your furry friend from the dangerous repercussions of this now widespread parasite?
Flash back to 150 years ago when a researcher very first detected the heartworm parasite in a dog. Then the parasite evolved and was then recognized in our cats 80 years ago. Even though heartworm prevention is available for both cats and dogs you would believe that we would experience a decrease in the number of cases, nonetheless every year hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are diagnosed and frequently die too soon from this dreaded parasite. A number of authorities estimate that in North America alone, cases of heartworms in our pets may possibly be in the millions.
The disease attributed to this heartworm residing inside of your pet’s heart is disastrous. Your pet could be infected with the solitary bite of only one mosquito. The worm can then migrate through your pet’s body finally taking up residence in your pet’s heart chamber and the blood vessels leading to the lungs. This leads to your pet’s heart being forced to pump harder to circulate the blood through his tiny body. The consequences to the lungs is even more severe with many pets gasping for breath as the lungs fill with fluid and tiny blood clots clog the vessels. Early warning signs can include coughing and exercise intolerance that some owners just attribute to the dog being lazy. Frequently, warning signs usually do not surface until the disease is well advanced and the dog is struggling with heart failure, fluid accumulation in the lungs and abdomen which could eventually lead to death.
In cats, it only takes one heartworm to cause harm. The first signs are asthma like symptoms and oftentimes vomiting that the owners will attribute to hairballs. Once that heartworm lodges in the lungs, it can result in the sudden death of the cat.
Treatment for heartworms is costly ranging from $500 for the smaller sized dogs, to well over $1500 for the larger breeds. Complicated heartworm disease with cardiac failure is even more expensive and oftentimes there is only a 10% chance of recovery in the severely affected dogs. As of yet, there is no remedy for cat heartworm disease, just supportive care.
Amazingly, veterinarians do have a remedy to this problem. Safe, effective heartworm preventatives are available in a variety of easy to use applications. What is even more amazing is that the cost of a lifetime of prevention for most pets is significantly less that a one-time treatment for the disease. So, why do pets continue to suffer and die from such a avoidable malady?
With all internet myths, two major hypotheses think that either the heartworm medications are failing or that the parasites are developing a resistance to the medications. While conspiracy theorists love these ideas, scientific evidence for either explanation is absent. Heartworm preventives possess a failure rate of less than 1 in 1 million doses. In addition, the complex life cycle of the heartworm does not lend itself to creating a natural resistance to the medications. The truth very likely lies in the memory of the owner to dispense the dose in a monthly manner and the warmer climate.
Rising temperatures in our climate has resulted in a prolonged mosquito season and a greater chance of transmission to our pets. Here in Houston, our mosquito season is all year round. Some places are currently experiencing more mosquitoes in previously mosquito-free locations. Irrigation of dry areas and expanded plantings of trees in certain locations might actually increase mosquito population. With a bigger number of mosquitoes, there is a greater risk of transmission of heartworm disease.
When all of the facts are reviewed, the simplest reason behind our failure to manage this dangerous parasite falls on the humans themselves. We simply do not give the preventive as we really should. Perhaps it is due to forgetfulness, or maybe one partner thought the other one administered it or even it might be because of the economic conditions as well as monetary limitations imposed on the family. Regardless of the cause might be, it can bring about serious repercussions for the health of our pets.
Thankfully, as pet owners, you do have powerful allies to help fight the war against heartworms. With the help of your veterinarian, you are able to find the ideal heartworm medication for your pet and your spending budget. Oral prescription drugs, like Heartgard, Sentinel, and Iverhart can be purchased. Additionally, there are topical medications for instance Advantage-Multi and Revolution that are formulated to also provide protection to your pet from both heartworms and fleas. Proheart 6 is additionally available as a long lasting injection. The prevention of this illness rests entirely on the pet’s owners to make sure the pet receives the prevention prior to the pet is actually exposed to the parasite. That means that this prevention should get started in puppy-hood and be administered each month, all year long.
Trifexis is now available and is a chewable tablet that covers heartworms, fleas, and intestinal parasites. I now use Trifexis on my own dog.
You should not waste time looking for “natural” or organic ways to defend against heartworms; they simply just do not exist. Some people believe they can formulate ivermectin to give to their pets, but improper dilution and storage can cause overdosing or underdosing. Adhere to recommendations by your veterinarian and the American Heartworm Society (www.heartwormsociety.org). Your pet is counting on you and prevention is far better and less expensive ın comparison to the treatment.