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Heartworm Prevention-Not just for the Summertime

A brief Q&A with a Resident Smarty, Ashley Konon!

What is the percentage chance that my dog will get heartworms?
Dogs that are bitten by a heartworm infected mosquito have a 100% chance of contracting heartworms, UNLESS they are on prevention. That means if your dog is not on heartworm prevention it only takes ONE BITE from an infected mosquito to pass on the parasite. Just one bite!

But I only need to worry about heartworms in the Summertime, prime mosquito months, right? 
Heartworms are a constant threat, especially in warm climates. In South Carolina we have one of the highest numbers of reported cases of heartworm infection in the country! Dogs and cats need to be on prevention year-round, even those pets that stay inside!

So I just need to be sure my dog is on heartworm prevention, but what about my cat?
Heartworms can affect cats too, and unlike dogs, there is no current treatment for a heartworm positive cat. All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito.

So what symptoms should I look for to tell if my dog has gotten heartworms?
Unlike hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms, you are unlikely to notice your pet has been infected until it is a major problem. Have your pets tested and make sure they are all up to date on their heartworm prevention.

How do the tests work for heartworms? When should I have my dog tested?
Heartworms take about 6 months to develop into adult worms, so it is important to start puppies and kittens on prevention before they reach the age of 6 months. If you have an adult dog you can have him tested for heartworms, a simple test where a small blood sample is taken and tested for the presences of heartworms. Cats don’t need to have a test before they start on prevention.

So what does prevention of heartworms include?
You can prevent heartworms in your pet with a once monthly prevention (pills or ointments). Prevention is a safe, cost effective, and easy way to make sure you and your pet never have to go through the pain of heartworm treatment.

You can also get a combination prevention that will take care of fleas, hookworms, roundworms, AND heartworms. There are multiple options for heartworm prevention in your pets, so you can find one that best suits your needs. The heartworm test takes about 10 minutes to run (and is only $20 at our Care A Van!)!

What does it mean if my dog tests positive for heartworms?
While a positive test result is not good, it is not a death sentence. The sooner you know your pet has a heartworm infection the sooner you can get rid of them. The longer a dog or cat has one or more adult heartworms the more damage they will do.

If your pet does come up positive, you need to seek treatment advice from a full service veterinarian ASAP. There are different options for treatment, so be sure you discuss all the benefits and risks with your veterinarian. Make sure to ask questions so that you can understand what your pet will be going through.

To find out more about prevention options on the Care-A-Van, contact

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