Heartworm Myths And Facts

Heartworm disease is a potentially deadly disease in both cats and dogs. Unfortunately, there are many myths that make pet owners believe their animals do not need heartworm prevention or testing. Following are some of these myths and the facts that pet owners should know.

book-dogMyth: My dog never goes outside, so she can’t get heartworms.
Fact: Heartworms are passed by mosquitoes which can easily come into your home.

Myth: My dog’s coat is so thick a mosquito can’t get to his skin to bite him.
Fact: No matter how thick a dog’s coat is, a mosquito can find its way to the skin, especially around his face.

Myth: My dog got heartworms from my friend’s dog.
Fact: Heartworms cannot be directly passed from one dog to another. Heartworms are only transmitted through mosquitoes.

Myth: Cats don’t get heartworms.
Fact: Both indoor and outdoor cats get heartworm disease. In some cases, a cat will die suddenly without ever showing any symptoms. Heartworms most commonly affect a cat’s lungs and cannot be treated with the same medication used to treat dogs.

Myth: I give my pets heartworm preventive, so I don’t need to have them tested for heartworms.
Fact: The American Heartworm Society recommends yearly heartworm testing for all pets, even those on heartworm prevention. The longer heartworms stay in a pet’s heart, the more damage they can do. Early detection and treatment is critical.

Myth: My dog couldn’t have heartworm disease because she never gets into garbage.
Fact: Heartworm disease is transmitted through mosquitoes, not trash or flies.

Pet owners should face the facts. Heartworm prevention and testing are essential to protecting a pet’s life.

Originally published April 2015 in the Weekly Herald

Dr. Lauren Kappers is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300.