It’s National Heartworm Month, which makes it a great time to think about protecting your cat or dog from these nasty parasites- especially as the temperatures outside get warmer.
The heartworm life cycle is dependent on temperature. The parasite’s life cycle will not be completed unless the region’s average temperature is 57 degrees F or more for a period of 45 consecutive days and at least two weeks of temperatures over 80 F. If these conditions are not fulfilled, your dog or cat is very likely safe without giving a heartworm preventive or doing any testing.
That means that seasonal prevention is a must for all pet parents, but may not be necessary year round (unless you live in a geographic area that has temperatures that reach a steady 57 degrees all the times such as Hawaii, Florida and parts of Texas).
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a dog or cat, the heartworm microfilaria are deposited on the animal's skin, where they crawl into the bite wound and enter the bloodstream.
In dogs, the larvae migrate to the heart and eventually develop into adult worms, reproduce, fill the blood with microfilariae. The maturation process takes 6-7 months and produces worms that can live up to 7 years in the dog.
Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss.
In cats, adult worms can develop, but they cannot reproduce; they take about 9 months to mature, and they tend to live only a year or two. However, adult heartworms are about a foot long, so it only takes 1 or 2 to fill up a cat's tiny heart and cause serious problems.So, as a pet parent, it’s best to take preventative steps when the weather starts to warm up and if you live in areas where the weather is hotter all year long, you might need more frequent treatments to protect your furry friends.