Pets warm our hearts during the coldest times of the year. We owe it to them to protect the most important muscle in their body. One question we’re frequently asked during pet exams is, “Do I need to give my pet heartworm prevention even when it’s cold outside?” The quick answer is, yes!

Don’t miss a dose of preventative if you want to completely protect your pet from the risk of heartworms, a painful and sometimes fatal disease caused by parasites. If you’re still not convinced, here are six reasons why heartworm prevention is a year-round responsibility for pet parents.

Heartworm disease is fatal.

What makes them so deadly? Heartworms cause significant damage to a pet’s heart and lungs. Dogs are a particularly friendly host for the parasite to mature, mate, and have offspring. As heartworms grow and multiply in the bloodstream, they block blood flow and cause the heart to work harder. Blood clots can form in the lungs, and vital organs like the kidneys and liver are starved of oxygen, leading to failure.

When left untreated, heartworm disease is 100% fatal for dogs. There is no approved treatment for cats or ferrets, though fortunately, heartworms don’t typically thrive in these animals. That being said, it takes fewer heartworms to cause significant damage in their smaller bodies.

Heartworm prevention kills heartworm larvae, not adult heartworms.

Heartworms spread when mosquitoes pick up baby parasites from an infected host. If a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae bites your pet just before the drop in temperature, the young parasites will mature into adult heartworms in just four to five months. Because preventative treatments can only eliminate immature heartworms, they won’t cure a full-blown infection if only given after the weather warms up.

In fact, giving preventatives to a pet that is already carrying adult heartworms can cause a severe reaction, which is why we always test for an infection before writing a prescription.

Warm days present an opportunity for mosquitoes to spread heartworm larvae.

Did you know the record high temperature in January in Minnesota is 69°? You never know when the weather may become unseasonably warm in our area. Even without unusually high temperatures, mosquitoes can adapt to cold weather, and some even manage to stay alive indoors all winter long. It takes only one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit heartworm larvae to your pet.

Interstate travel can be disastrous without heartworm protection.

While you’ll probably stay close to home this year, don’t leave your pet vulnerable to heartworm disease if you typically travel with them to warmer climes for the holidays. Despite it being winter, many U.S. locations remain warm enough for mosquitos to be active year-round.

Staying on schedule helps keep your pet protected all year.

When it comes to healthy habits, giving your pet heartworm prevention on the same day each month is a practice worth adding to your to-do list. Going on and off heartworm medicine can easily become a fatal mistake if you lose track of when to dose your pet.

Treatment costs considerably more than prevention.

Heartworm treatment is financially costly for dog parents and physically takes a toll on pups. Treatment usually involves a series of injections, oral medications, an overnight stay (or longer), and complete bed rest for about two months. And it’s worth repeating: There is no cure for heartworms in cats and ferrets, but their symptoms can be managed with good veterinary care.

While effective, treatment can also be quite dangerous. As heartworms die, they break apart, potentially lodging in blood vessels and arteries and causing heart failure. It can take several months for the body to clear out decomposing heartworms, and the damage done to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels can be permanent.

Don’t Risk It. Protect Your Pet from Heartworms All Year.

Skipping your pet’s heartworm prevention is like playing Russian roulette. It’s not worth the risk, and the results can be deadly. Your pet’s precious heart and life are worth protecting today, tomorrow, and every day after. If you have questions about heartworm prevention or need to refill your pet’s prescription, give us a call or make an appointment.

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