Guarding Your Pet’s Heart: The Importance of Heartworm Prevention

| April 5, 2024

As spring blossoms and warmer weather approaches, it’s not just the flowers that begin to emerge – so do pesky parasites like heartworms. Heartworm disease poses a serious threat to our beloved pets, and that’s why April is designated as Heartworm Awareness Month.  

What is Heartworm?

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms that inhabit the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected animals. These parasites, known as Dirofilaria immitis, are transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Once inside a pet’s body, heartworms can wreak havoc on their cardiovascular system, leading to severe health complications and, in some cases, death if left untreated. 

Early in the disease, infected dogs may show few or no symptoms. Left untreated, it will progress, and the animal may develop a cough or have difficulty exercising. More serious signs include congestive heart failure, anemia, weakness, and collapse. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, contact your vet right away.  

Preventing Heartworm

Preventing heartworm disease is far easier and safer than treating it, which is why regular testing and preventative measures are crucial for pet parents.  

Toronto Humane Society’s Public Veterinary Services offers heartworm testing through our wellness appointments. Heartworm testing is a simple and quick procedure that involves a blood test to detect the presence of heartworm proteins in your pet’s bloodstream.  

Annual heartworm testing is essential for dogs since heartworms typically need to mature for approximately 7 months before a positive test result can be obtained. Thus, it is recommended that pet parents prioritize this regular testing to ensure early detection and timely intervention if necessary. In the unfortunate event that your dog tests positive for heartworm, it’s crucial to collaborate closely with your local veterinarian to devise a treatment plan tailored to your pet’s specific needs and circumstances. This proactive approach can significantly enhance the chances of successful treatment and your dog’s overall well-being. 

By prioritizing heartworm prevention and staying up to date on your pet’s wellness appointments, you can help protect them from the devastating effects of heartworm disease. 

Discover more about the complexities of treating heartworm and Toronto Humane Society’s diligent efforts to explore an alternative, faster, and more cost-effective treatment in our Spring 2022 Animal Talk Magazine.