April is National Heartworm Awareness Month

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, and, by protecting our dogs, we as pet parents can also protect ourselves from the heartache that can come from the loss of a canine companion or the expensive and difficult treatment due to this preventable health issue.

Established in 1974, the American Heartworm Society strives to stop the spread of the disease through both the distribution of funds for heartworm research and the spread of the information to researchers, veterinarians and the public.  Through a series of infographics and videos the organization arms animal lovers with the knowledge they need to combat this potential pet killer, such as:

  • What are heartworms?  Roundworms which embed themselves in a pet’s heart, lungs and/or blood vessels.
  • How do canines contract heartworms?  Through the bite of a mosquito, which transfers infective larvae from a previous canine host on to a new victim.
  • How long can a heartworm stay in a dog’s system?  A heartworm can live out its life cycle in an infected host, mating and creating many more heartworms during that period.
  • When can my dog contract heartworms? Although more prevalent during the summer months, mosquitoes can transmit heartworms throughout the year.
  • Is my dog at risk for getting heartworms? Although dogs are more likely to get heartworms if they live in states where warm, moist weather is the usual forecast, any pet in the US is vulnerable to the disease.
  • Can my indoor dog get heartworms? As a warm home is a preferred place for the pest during the winter months, mosquitoes can easily infect a pet that does not venture outdoors.
  • What symptoms of infection should a pet parent look for?  While the early stage of the disease can be undetectable without a check up, pet guardians should watch for such developing symptoms as a nagging cough, disinterest in eating, weight loss, indifference to playtime and loss of energy.
  • How often should a dog be checked for heartworms? A dog’s annual vet visit should include a test for heartworms, regardless of whether the dog regularly takes a heartworm preventative.

For more information (including preventative measures, what to do if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, and how to teach children about heartworm prevention):

Photo Credit: American Heartworm Society

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About Grace Sydney

Grace Sydney is the Assistant Editor of DogTipper.com and CatTipper.com, covering celebrity-related rescue news. She operates the @HollywoodDogs Twitter account sharing information on celebrity fundraising for rescues and shelters.