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petplan pet insurance presents: heartworm of the matter - understanding heartworm disease in pets

  • Dr. Nina
  • Posted by Dr. Nina Mantione on
    Staff Veterinarian and Underwriting Support of Petplan


I’ve never been inspired to write a blog by a mosquito before. That is, until now. We were at the beach enjoying an evening walk by the ocean when the familiar whine and hum of these diabolical little insects had us running for the car.


“Mosquitoes ruin everything,” said my daughter as we slammed the door on an army of the tiny pests.  Just at that moment, I watched a man jog by with his dog. “Yes, they do.” I replied. I watched the dog round the corner and hoped he was up to date on his heartworm prevention.

Mosquitoes are vectors of many diseases. Most people know that for humans mosquitoes can spread West Nile Virus and Malaria, among other diseases. But for our pets, it is heartworm disease that mosquitoes harbor.  Heartworm disease is a usefully named parasite because the name pretty much sums up the disease.  It is indeed a parasitic worm, and if not always taking up residence quite in the heart itself, they lodge close enough to cause devastating effects.  A heartworm infection can lead to heart failure and lung problems. And while it can be treated (if it is detected on a yearly blood test), the treatment itself can be fraught with danger.

As pet owners, we are in luck.  Heartworm disease is exceptionally easy to prevent.  The parasite is very susceptible to de-wormers. So as long as we remember to give the de-wormers on their prescribed monthly basis, the heartworm parasite should succumb without a fight.

The key to the above sentence is, “as long as we remember to give them!” I know we have all experienced the moment of “Uh oh…when did I last give Fido his heartworm tablet?” Luckily for those scatterbrains among us (umm, myself included) we do have a little bit of leeway to be late with heartworm administration. But a little bit is a little bit - say a week or so. But it is far better to make it a habit to give your dog a heartworm preventative on the same day of each month. (For me that is on the 15th because that is the day I also pay bills.)  If you are still worried you may forget, ask your veterinarian if they have a reminder service, or try out the website www.remindmypet.com, which will send you monthly email reminders.

This simple step of giving your pet a monthly preventative could be the difference between life and death.  And it also lets you rest assured that when those rotten mosquitoes attack, they are just an annoyance, and not a major threat to our pets’ health.

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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
vet tip of the week

Visit your vet at least once a year to keep your pet protected from preventable diseases.