April is National Heartworm Awareness Month
Story Date: 3/31/2015

April-National Heartworm Awareness Month

courtesy of MMI Public Relations 

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. It is important for pet owners to be educated on the importance of protecting against heartworms, as these potentially fatal parasites are highly preventable with the use of proper medications.

Heartworm disease has been documented in all 50 states at all times of the year.
It is as prevalent in North Carolina as it is throughout most of the United States.  In 2013, North Carolina was ranked seventh for highest number of heartworm incidents in the United States. The American Heartworm Society estimates that only 55% of dogs in the U.S. are currently on a heartworm preventive, which leaves 27 million dogs at risk of acquiring heartworm disease. Heartworm infection can cause varying degrees of heart and lung pathology in dogs and cats. Some of the symptoms of heartworm disease are exercise intolerance, coughing, possible heart failure, vomiting, lethargy, abdominal distention, and in extreme cases, sudden death. This is caused by worms living in the heart and arteries of the lungs, and it can result in serious damage that eventually leads to heart failure, and in severe cases, damage to other organs such as the liver and kidneys.

Heartworms are easily preventable with once-monthly, year-round preventive therapy. This is only available by prescription from a veterinarian in chewable tablets or topical medicine. There are even injections that can be given to your pet by your veterinarian twice per year. It is always best to consult with your veterinarian before putting your dog or cat on any kind of medicine. While you may think that your dog or cat does not need preventative care, it is much riskier, not to mention more costly to treat this condition once your pet has been diagnosed with heartworms. Heartworm treatments usually last two to three months, depending on the severity of the case. The pet must remain completely rested during the treatment, which can often be hard for them to do, especially if they are younger and active.

Treating heartworm disease is a fairly risky procedure, because a toxic substance is used to kill the worms that live in the blood vessels within the lungs. The body itself must then clean up the worms. This can cost anywhere from $600 to $6,000 depending on the severity of the disease, while preventative costs are only about $30-$100 per year. If you have any questions or concerns, check with your veterinarian before administering the medication. By preventing heartworms from forming, you will be saving your pet’s life and your money! 

The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association (NCVMA) is a professional organization of veterinarians dedicated to compassionate animal care and quality medicine. For more information, visit www.ncvma.org, follow us on Twitter at @NCVMA, on Facebook and on Pinterest 


NC Veterinary Medical Association
1611 Jones Franklin Road, Suite 108
Raleigh, NC 27606-3376
Tel: (919) 851-5850
Fax: (919) 851-5859
Email: ncvma96@ncvma.org