April is Heartworm Disease Awareness Month
What is heartworm?
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats, and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and, in rare instances, humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.
The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment, when needed, should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.
How can my dog get heartworm?
The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected mammal produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another mammal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.
How do I prevent heartworm?
Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover. There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog is infected with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important.
Whether the preventive you choose is given as a pill, a spot-on topical medication, or as an injection, all approved heartworm medications work by eliminating the immature (larval) stages of the heartworm parasite. This includes the infective heartworm larvae deposited by the mosquito as well as the following larval stage that develops inside the animal. Unfortunately, in as little as 51 days, immature heartworm larvae can molt into an adult stage, which cannot be effectively eliminated by preventives. Because heartworms must be eliminated before they reach this adult stage, it is extremely important that heartworm preventives be administered strictly on schedule (monthly for oral and topical products and every 6 months for the injectable). Administering prevention late can allow immature larvae to molt into the adult stage, which is poorly prevented.
Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication, or give it late, it could leave your dog unprotected. Even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill, or rub off a topical medication. Heartworm preventives are highly effective, but not 100% effective. If you don’t get your dog tested, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.
Please ask the staff if your dog is up to date on heartworm prevention and/or testing.
The Honest Kitchen
Park Street Veterinary Clinic will now be offering The Honest Kitchen pet food line as our non-prescription brand. The Honest Kitchen (THK) diets are dehydrated formulas whereby moisture is removed while the food maintains all the beneficial nutrients of a “whole” food. Preserving food by dehydration is one of the oldest and most efficient methods of food processing. Their dehydration process gently removes the moisture from the whole food ingredients while keeping all the vitamins and minerals from their fruits, veggies, and lean meats.
All ingredients are 100% human grade and held to the same quality standards as the food in your local health food store. THK doesn’t use by-products, fillers, 4D meats, GMO ingredients, wheat, corn, soy, rice, beet pulp, artificial flavors, colors, sugar, or preservatives. The diets are made in a processing plant that also produces human products and therefore are tightly regulated by the FDA.
THK formulas include basic blends appropriate for puppies and kittens, respectively as well as for those with food sensitivities and allergies. There is even a meatless base mix intended for use with homemade diets where a protein source of your choice can be added to make a balanced diet. Additionally, we will be offering THK treats taste-tested and approved by our own pets!
Lastly, THK offers a loyalty program. Save your receipts (not the box UPCs) and for every 12 boxes you buy, the 13th of equal size is free!
If you are interested in learning more about The Honest Kitchen products, please ask one of our knowledgeable staff members or explore them yourself at The Honest Kitchen website.