A Heart to Heart(worm)

Hello! If you have ever visited our hospital with your pet, chances are you were given the ‘Heartworm Talk.’ It’s not that we love talking about heartworm disease and are overly paranoid; we always mention it because the disease is a serious risk facing pets everywhere and our patients in particular! Heartworm disease may be fatal if left untreated, but is almost completely preventable. Our clinic takes prevention very seriously and it's really important to us that our clients understand why we insist on talking about it all the time!

Heartworm disease is everywhere - even in the dry climate of New Mexico. It is a common misconception that because New Mexico is a desert, heartworm disease does not exist in the area. Heartworms are carried and transferred to pets through mosquitoes, which are present in New Mexico for most of the year. Here is the most recent incidence map from the American Heartworm Society. As you can see, the Santa Fe area is unfortunately a hot spot. The doctors at Smith Vet can attest to this, as we diagnose numerous cases each year.

The latest incidence map provided by the American Heartworm Society

The latest incidence map provided by the American Heartworm Society

How do you protect your pet from heartworm exposure? There is a myth that keeping your pets indoors will protect them. However, keeping a dog indoors all the time is unrealistic - at some point, the dog has to go outside to attend to personal business. Furthermore, mosquitoes can absolutely sneak into your house. All it takes is a cracked door or slightly opened window, and don't forget that your front door opens and closes constantly when you leave and enter your home. We have unfortunately diagnosed cases of heartworm in dogs who are ‘indoor only.’

The best way to protect your pet from heartworm disease is to administer year round prevention. It is rare to find mosquitoes outside in the winter, but it is not impossible, which is why we advocate year round prevention at Smith Vet Hospital. We understand that heartworm testing and year-round prevention is not cheap, but it pales in comparison to the cost of treating heartworm disease.

In most cases, the medical care of a patient with heartworm  disease does not end after the treatment itself is complete. There are often medical complications- such as irreversible changes to the heart- that require lifelong medical treatment and support. This adds further cost to a medical condition that could have been easily avoided.

Every April, Smith Vet Hospital participates in Heartworm Awareness Month! We offer 50% off heartworm testing with the purchase of at least 6 months of prevention! Please come by and get on the Prevention Bandwagon! We would love to see you and your pets and answer any and all of your questions.

Please note: Heartworm preventative is only available by prescription. If we have not seen your pet for an exam some time in the past 12 months, he or she will need to be seen by a doctor before he or she can receive the medication and qualify for the discounted test.