Keep your pet protected with a heartworm preventative


Take a moment and consider the craziest thing you do for your pet. Maybe it’s serving their food in a special way, saving their specific spot on the couch, or letting them take up the whole bed.

As pet parents, nothing is out of the question for our beloved four-legged family members.

So that should include preventative healthcare, right? One of the easiest ways to keep your pet healthy and protected from a deadly disease is a heartworm preventative given year-round.

Heartworm can be fatal to dogs, cats, and ferrets — and treatment isn’t easy. Thankfully, it’s 100 percent preventable.

Heartworm infection and symptoms

Heartworms are carried by infected mosquitos that spread the parasite to other animals. The worm larvae enter the bite wound and move through the dog, cat, or critter’s body, potentially growing up to 12 inches long in the arteries of the lungs and heart. Pretty gross, huh? The larvae can live in the blood stream for weeks, meaning your pet could be infected long before they show signs or symptoms.

Signs of heartworm include a mild, persistent cough, fatigue, decreased appetite and weight loss. Heartworm doesn’t spread from one pet to another, and is rare in humans.

If you have more questions about heartworm symptoms, contact your veterinarian.

Is year-round heartworm prevention really that important in Minnesota?

Bug season Minnesota is getting longer. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitos are coming out earlier in the spring and staying later in the fall, meaning there’s more time your furry friend could be exposed to an infected bug.

According to Dr. Graham Brayshaw, director of veterinary medicine at AHS, heartworm preventatives — whether given orally, topically, or injected — kill off the previous month of heartworm larvae in an animal. To keep your pet healthy, you should give them a preventative after the last mosquito of the year and a month after the first one.

If you’re forgetful or don’t want to risk it, most vets will recommend a year-round preventative. In Minnesota, we acknowledge that mosquitos are rare in the winter months, but AHS recommends preventatives be given at least through November.

Before starting any type of heartworm prevention, get your pet tested for existing heartworms. Symptoms may not always be noticeable, but you don’t want to start your pet on a medication if the heartworm is already in their system (it could be too shocking for their body and potentially be fatal). It’s best to be safe and always check with your vet before starting any sort of medication.

How much does heartworm preventative treatment cost?

While heartworm is treatable, the cost of preventative care will save you some cash in the long run — leaving you extra money to spend on toys and treats for your best friend.

A 12-month prescription of a monthly dose can cost less than $100, while treating heartworm can cost up to $1,000.

If you have any questions about heartworm or heartworm preventatives, please reach out to your veterinarian. Don’t have a vet? Check out these tips for finding the right one for you and your best friend.

High-quality, affordable vet care at AHS

If you're ready to get your pet started with heartworm preventatives, the Veterinary Centers at AHS are here to help! Our experienced and compassionate veterinary team offers a full range of services that are open to everyone, with affordable standard fees and additional discounts based on income. 

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