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Important information about Heartworms

As we look to February and Valentines Day, all those hearts you see should remind you about tending to your pets heart.  It is recommended that you keep your pets on heart worm prevention once a month year round.  But what exactly are heart worms and why do we need to protect our pets?  

Heart worms are actual worms that live in the greater vessels leading to the heart.  They interrupt blood flow and causes the heart to overwork.  They act like mud in a water pump causing the pump to overwork and eventually fail.  The clinical signs of heart worms; dry cough, swollen abdomen, exercise intolerance, and possible seizures; are actually clinical signs of heart failure.   

Heart worms are carried by mosquitoes.  The adult heart worm from an infected canine, or deer, produce larvae (L1) which are picked up by the mosquito when it feeds.  The larvae grow (L2) and are injected into the next animal when the mosquito feeds.  The larvae then grow into adult heart worms and the cycle continues.  

The heart worm preventions work on the larval stage of the heart worm, killing them before they become adults.  Since your dog is exposed to mosquitos every day; yes even in the winter; it is important that heart worm prevention is given every month.   

Currently, the only adulticide we have is off the market.  What this means for you is that if your dog has heart worms we are not able to kill the adult heart worms in a timely manner.  The American Heart Worm Society has issued guidelines for treatment of a dog with heart worms as a "slow kill" method.  This means that the heart stays under stress longer than it should.  This increases the chance of permanent damage to the heart.  Therefore, heart worm prevention is extremely important.  If you have difficulty remembering to give monthly heart worm prevention you should speak to your veterinarian about ProHeart injection, a shot that will give prevention for 6 months.  

But what about cats?  Yes cats do get heart worms.  Rarely the heart worm gets to the adult stage in a cats as they are not the natural host. More commonly the larval stage creates an inflammatory condition in the cats lungs as they travel through.  This is known as HARD (Heart Worm Associated Respiratory Disease).  This can be anywhere from mild respiratory disease to sever and life threatening. Worse yet, there is no treatment for HARD, we can only treat symptomatically.  For cats that spend any time outside it is recommended to keep them on heart worm prevention also.  You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about heart worm prevention.  

Show your pets love this year!  Get them on heart worm prevention.


Remember, at Lamczyk Veterinary Clinic, your pets are our family!

Dr. Jo Lynn Lamczyk
Mount Vernon Veterinarian | Lamczyk Veterinary Clinic | 618-204-5837

12246 N Sparrow Ln
Mount Vernon, IL 62864





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Lamczyk Veterinary Clinic
12246 N Sparrow Ln
Mount Vernon, IL 62864
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  • Phone: 618-204-5837
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