Poolesville Veterinary Clinic

Monday to Friday 7:30am–7:00pm
Saturday 9:00am–2:00pm
19621 Fisher Ave. • Poolesville, MD 20837 • 301.972.7705

Heartworm Infection and your pets.

You may have noticed that I am talking about Heartworm infection and “your pets”, dogs and cats.  You may not be aware that your cats are at risk of heartworm infection just as your dogs are in this area of the country.  Even for cats and dogs that spend very little or no time outside, Heartworm infection can potentially strike them.  The good news is there are preventative measures that you can easily utilize to protect your furry friends.  Let’s start by looking at how a Heartworm ends up in your pets’ heart where it can cause significant disease and even death.

The immature infective L3 larval stage of Heartworm infection is carried by a number of mosquito species.  These stealth carriers are always a treat and even more so as the climate continues to warm.  They are expanding their territories from the southern states.  Mosquitoes can be found in all 50 states.  There are mosquitoes that live in the house (unknown fact), mosquitoes that live in rainwater runoff, mosquitoes that survive in small wet areas of houses and barns even in the cold of winter.  Mosquitoes take a blood meal from an infected dog, coyote, or fox.  They ingest the micro-filarial (baby) stage that are circulating in the infected animals blood stream.  Over a number of weeks this stage develops into the L3 Larval stage in the mosquito.  This stage moves down to the opening in the skin caused by the bite and then can infect the animal. This immature stage of the Heartworm then migrates through the animal’s fatty tissue before penetrating a blood vessel and moving to the heart to become an adult. The total transformation to an adult takes about 5 – 7 months.

Prevention is a multi-pronged approach. First, it is very important to limit the areas where mosquitoes can have a chance to reproduce. This means trying to eliminate any areas of standing or pooling water. Check your basement, barns, equipment, and surrounding areas of your house for anything that would allow water to pool.

Secondly, it is important to consider using one of the newer flea and tick preventatives that also repel mosquitoes. Older generation flea and tick products sold at most the national big box retail stores do not repel mosquitoes.

Vectra 3D is a newer product (for dogs only) that is labeled as repelling mosquitoes on your dog. There is no product at this time that will repel mosquitoes from your cat.

Thirdly, be sure that you do not miss even one dose of your heartworm preventative medication. Newer studies have found that missing even one dose during the year (especially the spring and summer months) can allow the L3 immature stage of the Heartworm to mature to the more resistant L4 stage. Once this has occurred, an adult Heartworm can form in the heart. Most current studies find that the injectable product, Pro Heart 6, provides continuous protection for 6 months. You cannot forget to give a dose because it stays in the dogs’ fat, killing any Heartworm Larvae that migrate through the fat. This product, which is in the same class as many of the currently-used oral forms, is proven to be as safe. Prevention for your cat can be provided by Feline Revolution. This is a monthly topical that protects your cat. Your pet should have a negative Heartworm test that your veterinarian can perform before you start the Heartworm prevention. This is a simple in-office test that uses a small amount of blood from your pet. It is safe and highly accurate.

Don’t let your pets go unprotected. Contact your veterinarian today for more information.