Heartworm Denial


Every day that I am working in the clinic, I hear things about heartworms. Most of the time it is my staff or I recommending that your pet take monthly prevention, however sometimes I hear a lot of excuses about why pets are not on prevention. So I thought it was time to dispel some myths because I am ready for every patient at Animal Care Center to be protected against heartworms and intestinal parasites.

I’ll begin with the myths that don’t even deserve to be numbered. All totally insane. “If my dog has dewclaws, it cannot get heartworms. If I feed my dog, fish bones, chicken bones, or LARD (yes, lard)  he won’t get heartworms. We don’t have mosquitoes at our house. ( in Alabama- yeah right)”  Ok, now for some better ones.

Myth #1- They can’t get them because they do not go outside.

Well, most dogs DO go outside to use the bathroom, at least. Some potty on pads in the house, however none of them live in a bubble. Mosquitoes are flying insects and they can come inside your house! All it takes is one bite from a mosquito to transmit heartworms.

Myth #2- Heartworm prevention is expensive.

Heartworm prevention at our clinic varies in price from $8.50-$13.50 per month depending on the weight of the animal. Buy 2 meals at a fast food restaurant and you have spent that! However, what is expensive is treating a dog that has been infected with heartworms ($800-1750).

Myth #3- I have had dogs for years and none of them have ever had heartworms.

Well, either you are the luckiest person alive and need to go buy a lottery ticket, or, your dogs were never tested and diagnosed. Maybe they just wandered off and “died of old age”.

Myth #4- Cats cannot get heartworms.

Cats can get heartworms, however they do not react like dogs. Exposure to heartworm larva in cats leads to a chronic lung disease similar to COPD in people. There is no cure for cats like we have for dogs. Prevention is the only thing we can do for these guys. Unlike dogs, we can start them on prevention prior to testing. A positive test in cats usually only indicates exposure to larva, not actual heartworm disease. So, beginning heartworm prevention with a positive test is safe.

Myth #5-They cannot get heartworms in the winter.

Bottom line on this one- if the weather warms up enough for the mosquitos to become active, then heartworms are possible. Living in Alabama, we have had Thanksgivings and Christmases warm enough to eat outside on the patio. I recommend all of my patients get year round prevention.

Don’t fall into the group of folks who live in heartworm denial. Get your dogs tested and start your dogs and cats on heartworm prevention.

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Wag more, bark less,

Dr. Macie


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