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About Heartworm Disease Prevention & Treatment
Heartworm Disease is an increasingly serious parasite problem in the United States that endangers the health of dogs and cats. It can cause permanent damage to your pet’s heart, and may ultimately result in death if not promptly treated. Heartworm Disease has also been linked to feline asthma, because the adult worms can rarely infest a cat’s heart, their deaths in a cat’s body releases allergens that can cause a cat to have asthma-like symptoms.
Transmission: Transmission is through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes get heartworm larvae, called microfilariae, by drinking the blood from already infected wildlife, dogs, or cats, then give the larvae to another dog or cat when they bite them. The larvae are injected into the new dog or cat, where they grow into adults, mate, and produce more larvae. It does not require any direct pet to pet contact, or pet to wildlife contact.
Long Island is a hot-spot for mosquitoes, and even the Center for Disease Control is warning humans against the explosions of mosquito populations in our communities. Protecting your pet from mosquitoes involves using a high quality flea, tick And mosquito preventative. These preventatives should be used twelve months a year, for as long as your pet shall live. The first step of prevention is not allowing fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes to bite your pet in the first place.
Symptoms: In both dogs and cats, they include but are not limited to coughing, labored breathing, excessive panting as if the pet is trying to “catch their breath,” rapid fatigue following exercise, weight loss, unkempt coat, weakness, and lethargy. In cats, there may be very rapid breathing, opened mouth breathing, and a “voiceless” meow. In the early stages of the disease, there may be no symptoms at all, and you may never know your pet is a carrier of Heartworm Disease until a severe infection is already established.
Diagnosis: A simple Heartworm Preventative Screening Test blood test is necessary for the detection of Heartworm Disease. The American Heartworm Society endorses once a year testing for Heartworm Disease as part of all pets’ yearly preventative wellness examination. In keeping with this endorsement, Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness & Laser Surgery Center requires yearly Heartworm Preventative Testing in order to renew prescriptions for Heartworm Preventative medication.
Because full-blown Heartworm Disease is not frequently found in felines, we recommend testing for it only if a cat is displaying symptoms of asthma or breathing distress.
Prevention: Dogs and cats with a negative blood test should be put on a Heartworm Preventative medication. The Heartworm Preventative medication should be given to your pet once a month, twelve months a year, for the life of your pet. There are important reasons for this:
1. Long Island has very mild winters, which do not “freeze out” mosquito populations as was traditionally believed. The risk of infection can no longer be considered “over” in December as it once was in the past as mosquitoes are active more of the year. This applies to fleas and ticks as well.
2. Dogs and cats that mostly stay indoors are equally at risk, as mosquitoes can get inside a house easily, and thrive where it is warm inside even if it is cold outside. Ever wonder what that annoying buzzing in your ear is when you’re sleeping…could be your snoring pet…could be a mosquito.
3. In addition, the many heartworm preventative medications also prevent the intestinal parasites Roundworms, Hookworms, Whipworms, and Tapeworms. To effectively prevent these parasites as well as Heartworms, the medication must be administered all year round. People can get these intestinal parasites as well, especially small children who frequently play with pets, so providing a heartworm preventative not only protects pets, but protects people from parasites.
4. With the import of rescued pets from high heartworm endemic areas such as the South, more and more pets with active heartworm infections are being brought to Long Island to provide a reservoir for Long Island mosquitoes to acquire and transmit this disease. When choosing to adopt a pet, ensure that the rescue organization you are adopting from provides veterinarian signed and certified proof of Heartworm Disease screening results being negative, and that the pet has been placed on heartworm preventative medications prior to transport.
Warning: Heartworm Preventative Medication Cannot Be Given To A Pet That Has Already Contracted Heartworm Disease!! This is why, if you miss a dose, your pet must have their Heartworm Preventative Test repeated, even if you only missed just one month. Within that one month’s time, if your pet was bitten by a mosquito, and given heartworm larvae by that mosquito, that larvae will find your pet’s heart and grow into adults within a very short span of time. When a Heartworm Preventative Medication is given to a pet with adult heartworms, and those adult worms die, they can cause embolisms and heart attacks! Giving Heartworm Preventative medication to a pet that has contracted the disease can be deadly!!
Treatment: Treatment of Heartworm Disease upon the positive results of a Heartworm Preventative Test includes but is not limited to; hospitalization, injections with a chemotherapy drugs, confinement to a kennel to prevent excitability that may cause heart attacks, restriction on all activities such as play and exercise for up to a full year, electrocardiograms, ultrasounds, radiographs, medications, and plenty of rest. Permanent damage to the heart, such as enlargement of the heart, cannot be reversed, and may become chronic heart disease that requires medical management and frequent monitoring for the rest of your pet’s life.
Heartworm Disease Chemotherapy: All chemotherapy drugs, whether for cancer or disease, are derived from substances that are toxic, hence why they work. Yes, the Chemotherapy used to treat Heartworm Disease is derived from arsenic-based compounds. When given in controlled settings under veterinary supervision, and you comply with all instructions regarding restricting your pet's activity and keeping them confined, Heartworm Disease Chemotherapy has a great prognosis and treatment outcome.
The Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness Center complies with American Heartworm Society recommendations for the prevention of Heartworm Disease, and the administration of Heartworm Disease Chemotherapy.
The Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness Center is fully capable of providing your pet with Heartworm Disease Chemotherapy treatment from start to lifetime management of cardiac diseases, and we have treated many Heartworm Diseased pets over the years that have gone on to have lives full of love.
But, we’d rather not have to. Just one patient contracting Heartworm Disease is one too many for us. Since opening in 2006, Suffolk Veterinary Group has provided chemotherapy services for Heartworm Disease to 3 too many patients!
Heartworm Disease is such an easily preventable disease by giving your pet a Heartworm Preventative Medication once a month for as long as your pet shall live. Many of our families express financial concerns about the affordability of such medications, but it is by far much, much less expensive to prevent Heartworm Disease than to provide a pet you love with Heartworm Disease Chemotherapy at over $2,5000.00 for a full course of treatment, not including the lifetime of cardiac monitoring your pet will require, the shortened lifespan they can expect as a result of that cardiac damage, and having to keep your pet in a cage for up to a year while undergoing chemotherapy instead of enjoying their life with you.
There is such a wide variety of Heartworm Preventative Medications out there that we have no doubt you can find one that fits your needs and budget. Certain dog breeds, such as Collies, Sheepdogs, and sight-hounds that may have adverse reactions to the drug Ivermectin should avoid preventatives that contain this medication, and Dr. Winkler will be more than happy to recommend an alternative preventative. The Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness Center provides for your family our Vets First Choice Online Pharmacy so you can get the Heartworm Preventative Medication of your choice all at competitive prices shipped directly to your home.
If you would rather choose a different pharmacy option than the one we offer, please request that Dr. Winkler write you a written prescription for your preferred Heartworm Preventative Medication so that you may take it to the pharmacy of your choice.
Thank you for reading about Heartworm Disease, and what you can do to protect your pet from getting this deadly parasite. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call us at 631-696-2400.
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I want to thank Dr. Winkler and his staff. They are the most compassionate animal care center ever. And when we recently had to put our kitty down, no where else will you receive the compassion they show. God bless them for their kindness and caring hearts.