Heartworm: Dispelling the Myths


Tis The Season For Hearthworm

Myth: Heartworms are contagious.

Fact:  Heartworm is NOT contagious.  Heartworm is contracted only by a bite from a mosquito.

Myth: Cats cannot contract Heartworm.

Fact:  Cats most certainly can contract the disease if bitten by an infected mosquito.

Myth: Puppies and kittens are immune to the disease.

Fact:  Although puppies and kittens have some immunity from their mother they are not immune to Heartworm.  Speak to your veterinarian to see if your puppy or kittens are old enough to begin prevention.

Myth: Pets are only at risk of contracting Heartworm between June and November.

Fact:  Although this is the primary Heartworm season in Canada unpredictable weather may occur.  It is not uncommon for us to experience mild winters and therefore would need to adjust length of prevention accordingly.

Myth: Indoor cats and dogs are not at risk of contracting Heartworm.

Fact:  Although outdoor pets are at higher risk, it is still possible for indoor pets to get bit by a mosquito that has gotten inside.

Myth: Heartworm prevention is not needed as treatment of the disease is just as easy as the prevention itself.

Fact:  Treatment requires injections to kill the heartworms.  In comparison to heartworm prevention, the treatment is expensive, can be up to $1000 and can be traumatic and risky.

Myth: Heartworm is never fatal.

Fact:  Heartworm is a very serious condition and must be treated. This is because the heartworm is concentrated around the heart and lungs, which reduces blood and oxygen circulation. Without treatment an infected pet cannot survive.

Myth: It does not matter what time of year you test for heartworm.

Fact:  Microfilariae in the bloodstream indicate that the pet is infected with adult heartworms (because only adult heartworms can mate and produce microfilariae).  Microfilariae can be detected in the bloodstream about six to seven months after the pet is bitten by an infected mosquito (this is about the time it takes the heartworms to develop from infected larvae into adults that mate and produce microfilariae).  This means that testing should wait 6-7 months after the previous heartworm season.  False negatives may occur if the test is performed too early in the year.

Here at Guelph Animal Hospital we begin our testing no earlier than March, you can book your appointment now and beat the rush!

Meaghan RVT