Heartworm Prevention Time

Vet’s Wife Blog

I’m sitting here in my corner office at The Southampton Pet Hospital, in between the indoor kennels and the outdoor kennels, dreaming of spring weather. But with spring, heartworm season starts as well.

Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease that affects all sorts of animals—not just dogs. Your cat can be infected, as well as many wild animals. Humans are not good hosts to the heartworm, so they don’t survive inside of us. Yikes! Never thought of THAT did you?

Heartworm is caused by an infected mosquito biting an animal and injecting the immature worms through the mosquito’s saliva. There has been a 60% increase in the number of dogs in Ontario with heartworm since 2002 with over 75% of all heartworm cases in Canada occurring in Ontario. Think it doesn’t happen here in beautiful Southampton? We had a case in 2010, and with the way everyone travels, the population of pets increasing, and warmer climate conditions…I think heartworm is here to stay. Remember, it doesn’t just affect our pets. Wild animals are affected as well, and no one is out there giving the foxes and coyotes their heartworm medication every month.

Okay, so a lot of people will say that their pets are indoor or mainly indoor animals. Good argument, BUT remember, it’s transmitted by mosquito’s, and it only takes one bite. If your house doesn’t have any flying bloodsucking buzzing bugs, I want to know your secret because nothing affects me trying to get to sleep like a bug waiting to bite me.

Testing for heartworm is a good idea because depending on the type of heartworm medication used, if given to a pet already infected with heartworm, they may have a mild or severe allergic reaction. Also, who knows what might have happened to make our pet miss a pill. We, as caregivers, may have forgotten to give the pill. Honestly, some days I’m just lucky if I get everyone’s teeth brushed. (I have four children) Or, there might be the odd pill thrown up after it was administered. You get the picture. Anything can happen, and as everyone at the Southampton Pet Hospital knows, my motto is “Just do the damn test”. Not just with heartworm, with everything. My mother would be alive today, if her doctors had just done the testing. I’m going to have t-shirts printed, I swear.

As someone who has been touched by cancer, the way I look at it is…if I could take a pill to prevent me from getting a potentially fatal disease once a month, I would. Heartworm IS a fatal disease if left untreated. I give preventative medication to my pets because I love them and it’s simple to do. One pill a month, not that big of a deal.

Remember, I’m not a veterinarian – I’m his wife.