The Faces of Heartworm

Did you know one million dogs are estimated to be heartworm positive in the United States each year? Each of the 50 states has documented cases of heartworm infections. Did you also know heartworms do not just infect dogs? They can infect more than 30 species of animals including coyotes, foxes, wolves and other wild canids, domestic cats, wild felids, ferrets, sea lions, and humans.

Heartworm disease does not just affect America. According to the American Heartworm Society, “Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world.” When a host is infected, foot-long worms (heartworms) make their home in the heart, lungs and blood vessels, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and major damage to other organs in the body.

Animals infected with heartworms cannot spread the disease directly. An animal contracts heartworm disease after being bitten by a mosquito who has fed off another infected animal. It only takes months for the heartworm larvae to mature and make their way to the heart and lungs. All it takes is one mosquito bite to get this started. Once your pet is infected, treatment for heartworm disease can cost up to $1,000 or more. Diagnosis can run $300-400, treatment and boarding $700-800, not to mention the stress and burden on both the pets and the owners. There are short-term and long-term treatments available at both high-cost and health-risk to your pet.

Typically, the peak months for your pet to contract heartworm infection in the Northern Hemisphere are July and August, but there are other influences to factor in, such as microclimate, mosquito life expectancy and temperature fluctuations, which place animals at risk year round. With all of the climate changes, veterinarians are recommending more than ever to keep your pets on prevention throughout the year.

Whether your pets are living inside or outside, the potential risk of being bitten by a mosquito is still there. Despite these risks, heartworm infection is easy to prevent. As a matter of fact, according to the website Doctors Foster and Smith, “Research suggests that heartworm disease could be virtually eradicated using available preventives.” It makes no sense to go through all of this agony and heartache when there are ways to prevent this from happening. Heartworm prevention can cost as low as $5-15 a month in the form of a tasty treat or pill. And with your pet on prevention, you are helping to eliminate more potential infections from occurring in other animals as well.

For a disease which is easy and affordable to prevent, there are far too many pets infected with heartworms. Since you now know the facts, make sure your pets are protected and help put an end to this crippling disease.

Note from ISF’s Grant Team:

Getting to know the facts and sharing your information with others can help alleviate heartworm disease in society. Since the birth of our ISF Medical Emergency Grant in Feb. 2014, 42 out of the 290 dogs who have received an ISF Grant have been heartworm positive. Click here to support ISF in our quest to eliminate this disease.

Written by Whitney Norton

Stock photo © Beau Meyer

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