Ask the Veterinarian: Heartworm

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Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Mondays to see common veterinary questions answered. If you have an immediate medical concern with your pet, please call your veterinarian! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.

With the weather warming up, it’s time to start thinking about diseases like heartworm.

Heartworm is as horrible as it sounds. Through a simple mosquito bite, worms infect an animal, travel through the bloodstream, and take root deep inside the pulmonary arteries, heart, and lungs. The worms can grow to be anywhere from 4 to 12 inches long, multiply to populations in the hundreds, and ultimately can lead to the death of their host.

Heartworm disease is spreading up the Mississippi River Valley. The incidence of heartworm cases is increasing in most states, including Michigan. According to the American Heartworm Society, Michigan sees 6-25 heartworm cases per veterinary clinic each year.

From the time an animal is bitten to the time a blood test can accurately detect the presence of the disease, the heartworms are given five to seven months to grow, reproduce, and take up residence in the most vital organs of the animal.

While heartworm is treatable if caught, it is an expensive, extensive, and difficult process. Extra stress is placed on the sick animal as it is given painful muscle injections for one to two months, often with an accompanying hospital stay.

Recently, the medication to treat heartworm disease has been in limited supply, making prevention even more important.

But there is good news….

While heartworm is potentially fatal, it is 100% preventable – one pill a month of heartworm preventative will keep your pet protected.

Heartworm medication is safe, inexpensive and easy to give – especially compared to the financial and emotional cost of going through heartworm treatment, or losing your dog to heartworm.

Additionally, many heartworm preventatives also treat for other parasites such as hook-worms, roundworms and whipworms.

In providing your pet treatment for heartworm, you’re helping to fight against other preventable ailments. Yearly heartworm testing is required in addition to monthly preventative. Pets as young as six weeks of age can be started on heartworm prevention.

Heartworm preventative starts as low as $8 a month.

To purchase heartworm preventative, get a heartworm test for your pet or if you have any other questions, please contact your nearest MHS veterinary center location:

Rochester Hills: 248-852-7424
Detroit: 313-872-0004
Westland: 734-721-4195

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