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Heartworm Awareness Month

Part of what sets AVC apart from other veterinary practices is our commitment to preventative health care.

The American Heartworm Society has designated April as heartworm awareness month.  Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by a parasitic worm (Dirofilaria Immitis).  These worms can grow very large and live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.  Heartworms can cause severe heart and lung diseases, heart failure, and damage to internal organs.

Dogs are a natural host for heartworms.  Left untreated, the number of worms can be in the hundreds and can seriously damage the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Cats are a less likely host for heartworms and will usually have a small number of immature worms.  Though less common, heartworms may lead to a condition in cats called heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD). Cats with heartworm disease are at risk of sudden death, even if they have been previously asymptomatic.

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos.  The mosquito picks up the microfilaria from an infected animal, where it matures for 10-14 days.  When the mosquito bites again, the mature infected larva is released into the bloodstream of another animal.  Larva may take up to six months to mature into an adult heartworm.  It is for this reason that if you miss a dose of heartworm prevention, we recommend testing in 6 months (the test detects adult heartworms only). Once mature, heartworms may live five to seven years in dogs, and two to three years in cats.

Signs of heartworm disease in dogs may include a mild persistent cough, lethargy, decreased appetite, exercise intolerance, and/or weight loss.  Some pets may develop a swollen abdomen from excess fluid as a result of right sided heart failure.  Dogs with a large number of heartworms may have a sudden blockage of blood flow in the heart (caval syndrome) which can be fatal if not surgically treated. Medical treatment is also an option, but can have serious side effects. Because of these risks, prevention is best.

Cats may show subtle or very dramatic signs; from a mild cough and vomiting to sudden collapse and death.

AVC is offering 10% off the prevention, testing, and treatment of heartworm disease this month.  Prevention is the key to a healthy pet.  Start your pet on a heartworm preventative and have them tested.  If your pet tests positive, talk to one of our experienced veterinarians regarding a course of treatment.  If you have any questions regarding parasites or other animal health issues, please feel free to contact our office and speak with a knowledgeable staff member.  AVC carries a large line of preventatives for fleas, ticks, and heartworm in dogs and cats.