The unseasonably warm weather makes me think of spring flowers, outdoor picnics and, yes, heartworms. “Why?” you ask. Because heartworms are carried by mosquitos, who prefer warmer temperatures. As soon as the weather warms up and mosquitos come out, your pets’ risk for heartworm disease increases.

In fact, the American Heartworm Society recommends keeping your pets on preventative medication year-round because it is so hard to keep track of high-risk months. On top of warm weather, the most likely time for your dog to be bitten is in the evening and at night. If your dogs sleep outside, consider screening in their kennel to keep mosquitos, and the heartworm larvae they carry, out.

I hate heartworm disease. I hate it because the symptoms vary, it causes lasting health damage in both dogs and cats and can even be fatal, all the while being preventable.

Since prevention is by far the best option, talk to your vet about the different options for preventative medication. There are many choices – from monthly tablets to twice-a-year shots. If you are like me and have so many things to remember, set up a reminder text through the website of the heartworm product you use (most of the major companies have this service) or you can set up a reminder through www.mypet.com.

While we don’t often think of cats as being susceptible to heartworms, they are as well. Though cats are much less likely to get heartworm infection, if they do, it can be deadly. Even indoor cats are at risk. Approximately 25% of the cats diagnosed with heartworm infection at North Carolina State’s Vet School were indoor-only cats, so I recommend preventatives for them as well.

Remember – prevention is the best option and there are low cost medications available. Like most things, prevention is considerably less expensive than treatment once your pet is ill. If you would like more information about heartworm disease, talk to your vet or go the American Heartworm Society web page www.heartwormsociety.org.

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