Key Facts About Heartworm Disease



April isn’t just the month of showers that bring May flowers. It’s also National Heartworm Awareness Month, which presents a great opportunity for pet retailers to assert their role as an invaluable source of knowledge (in addition to pet supplies). 

Here’s some of the key information to present to your customers this month to protect dogs and cats from heartworm disease year-round:

What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious (and potentially fatal) illness that affects pets across the globe. It’s caused by parasitic worms, which are spread by mosquito bites and live in the host’s heart, lungs and related blood vessels. If left untreated, the infection can lead to lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs and eventually death. Heartworms mostly affect dogs and cats, but they can also be found in other mammals, such as ferrets, foxes and coyotes.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can vary in pets, depending on the severity and length of the infection, as well as the animal’s activity level. Signs can include coughing, fatigue, trouble breathing, loss of appetite, weight loss and, eventually, heart failure and even a swollen stomach from excess fluids. Without treatment, heartworms can block blood flow to the heart causing cardiovascular collapse and death. 

How can it prevented?
The best treatment is, of course, prevention. All dogs should be tested on at least a yearly basis for heartworms. Owners should also talk to their vets about FDA-approved prescription preventive medications, such as the monthly chewables or topical injections available for both cats and dogs. 

While heartworm disease is serious, tell your customers not to panic if their pet does test positive. Most infected pets can be successfully treated with early detection and appropriate medical attention. 

For more information, visit the FDA website.


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