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Cats and Dogs, Critter Chatter, Healthcare

CRITTER CHATTER: Heartworm Awareness Month

The Paw Print

Essential Pet Blog

Close up of black and white small dog outdoors

“Where do broken hearts go?”

Whitney Houston, Where do Broken Hearts Go?

April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition where adult heartworms live in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels of infected dogs. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and not directly from dog to dog. Cats and ferrets can also get heartworm disease. The American Heartworm Society estimates that more than a million dogs in the U.S. have heartworm disease.

Heartworm Preventives

Heartworm disease can be prevented with monthly chewable pills, topical “spot on” medications or an injectable medication given every 6 months. Preventives are only available as a prescription from veterinarians and are safe, relatively inexpensive, and easy to give. Bayer Animal Health recently announced the launch of Coraxis (moxidectin) Topical Solution for Dogs. It’s a prescription-only, monthly transdermal product that prevents heartworm disease and also treats and controls hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms in dogs. While there are drug-free strategies to reduce a pet’s exposure to mosquitoes, there’s no such thing as a “natural” heartworm preventive.

Make sure the product you are using is actually a heartworm preventive. Far too many people assume their flea and tick product is protecting their dog from heartworms when it isn’t. Some preventives only prevent heartworms, some protect pets from heartworms and intestinal parasites, and some protect pets from many different parasites, including heartworms, intestinal worms, fleas, ticks, and mites.

Don’t stop prevention just because you haven’t seen a mosquito lately- dogs don’t just need prevention during warm-weather months. The American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm prevention for pets. Heartworm preventives work retroactively, eliminating new infections that were transmitted months earlier.

Heartworm testing

Even if your dog is on year-round heartworm prevention, it’s important to have them tested each year for heartworm infection. It takes roughly 6 months for an infection to be detected with a standard heartworm test. If your dog becomes infected, an early diagnosis can be made and treatment can begin immediately.


If your dog does become infected, treatment can be difficult and costly. The American Heartworm Society estimates the average cost of prevention for a 40-pound dog ranges from $70-200 versus treatment that might cost $1,200 -1,800. With today’ advances in veterinary medicine, treatment is roughly 99% effective. Of course, the stage of the disease your dog is at is a factor, and an early diagnosis is critical.

Controlling mosquitoes and providing high-quality foods and exercise, combined with appropriate year-round preventive medications are key elements in eliminating heartworm disease as well as the need for your veterinarian to fix a broken heart.


a vet and his dogABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Brown holds a Doctorate Degree in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of California at Davis, a Master of Science Degree in Animal Science and Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Physiology from the University of California.  Following discharge from the Air Force as a Captain, he owned and operated the largest veterinary hospital on Cape Cod for almost twenty years. Brown is the past President of the Yavapai Humane Society Board of Directors, Branding Committee Chairman for National Animal Supplement Council and member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  He writes and lectures frequently on the benefits of natural and organic foods and supplements for animals and lives with his wife and a Golden doodle named Charlotte.

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