What is Heartworm and Should I give my Pet Heartworm Preventative?

If you’ve never heard of the heartworm before, you’re not alone. Many pet parents are unaware of this health risk to their dogs, and sometimes cats too! The heartworm is a parasite that enters your pet’s bloodstream via a mosquito bite. Once it reaches the heart, a heartworm can lodge inside and grow up to 12 inches long! The infection is often too far advanced to reverse when symptoms like coughing and exercise intolerance show up—in many cases it is fatal. Nevada used to have far less cases of heartworm infection than it does today, because of our arid climate—but many factors have contributed to the increasing frequency of heartworm infection here and in all 50 states. People travel with their pets and bring back infection, new pets move into the area, and La Niña has been bringing us wetter weather, which mosquitoes thrive in.

    Another unpleasant factor besides the heartbreak of losing a beloved pet is the heavy cost and technical burden of treating heartworm infection. Treatment costs on average about $1800.00—pets must be hospitalized for treatment several times, receive a lot of drugs and medicines, and have very strict exercise confinement or stay crated for at least 2 months. Treatment includes antibiotics, heartworm preventative medicine, steroids, a series of injections into the lumbar muscles of the back, and even surgery in some cases. Some dogs still do not survive despite the best efforts made to save them, and most cats do not survive regardless of attempts at treatment.

    Fortunately, an amazing preventative exists for this disorder and has been made easy and affordable through innovation over the past two decades. The heartworm preventative medication we offer at Fairgrounds Animal Hospital is called Heartgard—it is a little chewy tablet that looks and tastes like a treat! To prevent heartworm infection, one tab is given orally just once a month! The cost is excellent compared to treatment—just $38-$78 per year (that’s $3.16-$6.50 a month). It’s an added bonus that Heartgard also treats and prevents roundworm and hookworm infection—two parasites that can be transmitted to you and your family from an infected pet, and can even cause blindness in humans! You can pick up a packet or written script for Heartgard from us with a quick blood test to ensure there is no infection present—you even get little stickers in the packet to put on your calendar at home to remind you what day the chew is due. Give us a call or walk in anytime during business hours to get your pet protected for the summer!