Protect Your Pets From Heartworm

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Did you know April is National Heartworm Awareness Month?

Did you know April is National Heartworm Awareness Month? Heartworm is a completely preventable disease, and your pets rely on you to keep them safe.

With warmer weather on the way, Manitobans and their pets will soon be spending as much time as possible outside. While enjoying the beautiful sunshine, it’s also important to remember the risk of heartworm and the importance of prevention for our furry companions. Dogs and cats are particularly vulnerable to infection, and the best way to keep your pets healthy is to give them monthly preventative medications prescribed by their veterinarian.

Unfortunately, heartworms are prevalent in Southern Manitoba due to the climate and wet landscapes that produce high mosquito populations. Heartworms are spread when an infected mosquito bites an animal, then the larvae of the worms enter the new host through the bite wound. Left untreated, the larvae then travel through the bloodstream to the heart. Once in the heart, they grow and eventually block the arteries. This can lead to reduced heart function, reduced lung capacity, and in extreme cases death.

If you notice your dog or cat is breathing heavy, coughing, unable to exercise or lethargic, stops eating, or has a distended abdomen, you need to take them to a veterinarian immediately so they can be tested for heartworm using a small blood sample. While prevention is key, the earlier heartworm is diagnosed the better the chances your pet will make a full recovery.

Ultimately, heartworm prevention is not only easier it is also much less expensive than treatment after infection. Prevention typically involves giving your pet either a monthly chewable or topical medication. Treatment varies by year depending on the weather and mosquito activity and should start 30 days after the first mosquitoes appear until 30 days after the last mosquitoes have died. In Manitoba, this usually means from June until November, but as mentioned before this can vary by year so it’s best to ask your veterinarian. If you plan to travel with your pets to warmer climates then longer prevention may be required, so be sure to mention any trips further south when you are at your vet clinic.

As many of you know, summertime in the Pembina Valley is beautiful and filled with fun
activities and festivals for both people and their furry friends. In order to fully enjoy the great outdoors, make sure you are prepared and have given your pets their heartworm prevention treatments each month so you can have peace of mind when those pesky mosquitoes are out. Remember, even indoor pets can come in contact with mosquitoes, so it’s best to discuss prevention with your veterinarian for all your cats and dogs.

Last modified: April 27, 2024