Heartworm is a nasty, potentially fatal disease caused by parasitic worms living in an animal’s heart and blood vessels. It’s a bad deal. Fortunately, Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2016 State of Pet Health Report found a 33.1 percent decline in the number of confirmed heartworm cases in their hospitals between 2011 and 2016. Woo! This trend has a lot to do with proactive prevention on the part of pet owners. Here are three simple things you can do to protect your dog from this horrible disease.
Get an annual test
Get your pet tested for heartworm every year by your vet. “Annual testing is important because the time from infection to adult worms is roughly six months,” says Dr. David Dilmore, DVM, at Banfield. “Meaning, some pets may have been infected with juvenile worms that did not originally result in a positive test but have since matured into adult worms that are doing irreversible damage.”
Use preventive meds
The American Heartworm Society strongly advises dogs (and cats!) take preventive heartworm medication. Some pet parents opt for a monthly chewable tablet, while others go for shots like ProHeart® 6, which is administered every six months. There’ are a lot of options out there, so talk to your vet about which is best, keeping in mind your schedule (i.e., will you remember those tablets every month?) and your dog’s susceptibility.
Do some mosquito control
At the end of the day, it’s the mosquito carrying the heartworm parasite that causes all this hubbub. Ergo, controlling the mosquito population in your neighborhood and yard is a solid way to control the spread of heartworm. According to the team at Mosquito Squad, this includes everything from dumping out any standing water (where mosquitoes lay eggs) to planting flowers that naturally repel mosquitoes (think: marigolds, lavender, rosemary) and beyond (having your yard treated professionally).