As the temperatures grow hotter in St. Louis, our team at St. Louis Veterinary Center is warning pet owners to be aware of letting pets play around in wet areas heavily populated with mosquitos as they may be carriers of heartworm disease. Heartworm disease can be a confusing topic, but it’s essential for pet owners to understand the importance of year-round prevention, especially because we reside in a heartworm-heavy area. Our team is here to clear up some confusion on heartworm myths to ensure our clients stay educated.

Myth: Heartworm disease is not a serious concern

Truth: Heartworm disease can be fatal if left untreated, yet treatment is a months-long, difficult process for dogs, and there is no heartworm treatment for cats. If your dog contracts a heartworm infection, they will be required to remain exercise-restricted throughout the entire process. Complications can also occur during treatment, making this disease much more serious. 

Myth: Only dogs get heartworms

Truth: Heartworms can infect any mammal, including people. While dogs and wild canines are this parasite’s preferred hosts, heartworms can also infect your feline friend. 

Myth: Indoor pets don’t need heartworm prevention

Truth: Mosquitoes are sneaky little pests and can easily slip inside your home, infecting your pet with heartworms. Your indoor-only cat can be infected by a mosquito that flies in an open door or a tiny hole in a window screen. Year-round heartworm prevention is a must for every pet in your home.

Myth: I’ll know if my pet has heartworm disease

Truth: Once your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito, heartworm infection is not detectable in your pet for six months. During that time, the heartworm larvae reach adulthood as they migrate from the bite zone to the blood vessels and surround your pet’s heart and lungs. At this point only, you may notice heartworm signs, such as a mild cough or slight exercise intolerance, in your dog. Cats may show no signs but can suddenly collapse or die without warning. Without annual testing and year-round prevention, your pet may be harboring a hidden heartworm infection. 

Myth: Pets don’t need heartworm prevention in the winter

Truth: Mosquitoes are hardy creatures and can pop back up as soon as temperatures rise above freezing. Unpredictably warm temperatures in winter can offer mosquitoes the opportunity to infect your pet with heartworms, which makes year-round prevention essential. 

Just like we mentioned earlier, heartworm disease can become a serious concern if left untreated, and it’s not always easy to know when your pet has heartworm disease. Keeping your pet safe with preventative care is always recommended. Call us to schedule an annual wellness exam for your pet. The exam will include a heartworm test, which will help keep your pet safe all year round.