If there is one thing predictable in Nebraska (where I practice) it is talk about the Huskers. If there is one thing unpredictable in Nebraska, it is the weather. This is true in many other states as well and a commonly discussed topic no matter where you call home.
With regard to heartworm disease, this is one of the reasons why prevention in both dogs and cats should be given year round. Without a shadow of a doubt, there is truly no predictable given date when it is safe to either discontinue or start giving your pets heartworm preventative. I have witnessed mosquitoes, which are the insect vectors that transmit heartworm disease, as late as December and as early as February. In more temperate climates than Nebraska it is easy to see these pesky, disease-carrying insects all 12 months of the year.
Did you know that many monthly heartworm preventatives typically contain additional intestinal parasite preventative medications? These parasites can be infective even in cold winter months. These intestinal parasites (a.k.a. worms) can also be infective to our human family members, so monthly prevention is an awesome additional benefit.
As pet parents, we are creatures of habit. I have had many conversations with pet owners who say, “I had every intention of starting Fluffy back on heartworm in March or April, but I guess time slipped by, and now it’s July. I hope this doesn’t lead to a problem.” In most cases, if the preventative has been given routinely in the past, it may not be a problem. We can only hope that this is the case while as we (veterinarians) and you (pet parents) wait anxiously for the blood test results. Unfortunately, I have had just this scenario with the results that no one wants to hear, “Your pet is positive for heartworm.” Wouldn’t it just have been easier, and more reliable, to give the prevention on the first of the month or first Saturday of each and every month? The slight cost savings of skipping a month or two isn’t worth the risk.
The American Heartworm Society has a great site that goes into greater depth about heartworm disease and recommends monthly, year-round heartworm prevention.
Don’t forget your feline friends, either. Cats can get heartworm disease as well and there is currently no treatment for cats. How awful would that feel knowing that you could have prevented this disease? More details on kitty heartworm can be referenced in my previous blog post.
Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states. Don’t let your furry family members be one of these statistics. Keep them on prevention each and every month of the year and you can keep cheering for their health as well as your favorite football team. Go Huskers!