Benefits of Heartworm Prevention

April’s WDM Living article

Added Benefits of Heartworm Prevention


Most pet owners have heard of heartworm infection in dogs, but what many aren’t aware of is the other benefits to heartworm prevention.

Although heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, and prevention in Alabama is necessary year round, according to the American heartworm society, prevention not only prevents heartworms, but many intestinal parasites as well.

Almost all puppies and kittens are born with roundworms, hookworms or even both.  Most often, these worms are passed from mom to the babies either during pregnancy or during nursing after birth.  Left unchecked, these parasites can cause poor growth, diarrhea, vomiting, or even death in young animals.

Adult pets aren’t immune to these parasites either.  Pets who consume other animals’ feces, eat grass, or even those who catch and eat wildlife might end up with problems caused by the worms.

Beyond their immediate effects on the animals, there is an even more sinister side:  roundworms and hookworms are zoonotic, meaning that they can be passed to humans.  Children are especially susceptible and can suffer blindness, seizures or organ dysfunction.  In extreme cases, young children have lost an eye to roundworm infections.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that almost 14% of the U.S. population is infected with roundworms.  That’s nearly 40 million people!  Why aren’t more people aware of this danger?

The answer lies in the reproduction of these parasites.  One adult female worm commonly sheds more than 200,000 eggs every single day.  Now, imagine a mother dog with a litter of 9 puppies.  Including mom’s contribution, even if each pup had only one female worm, more than 2 million eggs are being deposited daily into the yard where the puppies…and kids, play.  Multiply that by the number of days until the puppy is taken for an initial visit, and you can now get a sense for why this is a problem that has not gone away.

Roundworm eggs are also very hardy, able to survive for over two years in the environment.  This makes places like dog parks or other areas where dogs roam potential danger zones for becoming infested.  Pets can even pick up worm eggs during the winter time!

Did you know it costs less to prevent a 100lb dog from getting heartworms year around for 11 years than it does to treat heartworms once?! Also, once heartworms are contracted, there are some irreversible changes that happen even if the pet is treated.  In many cases the leading symptom of heartworms is sudden death; this is just one reason yearly testing to determine the presence of heartworms is needed.

Cats get heartworms too.  Recent studies showed 30% of cat with heartworms were indoor only cats.  Also 20% of potting soil contains roundworm/hookworm eggs, so indoor only cats need a broad spectrum monthly preventative just as dogs do.  Oddly, testing is not quite as accurate in cats as in dogs, so testing is not required, but an exam with your veterinarian is needed to get the prescription preventative.

These are just a few of the reasons that monthly heartworm prevention year around in dogs and cats are not only good for the pet, but for people as well.  An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure!

For more information, please call Arnold Veterinary Hospital at 334-585-2259.