Although heartworms are not a massive problem here in the UK, it's something no pet owner should ignore especially if they are planning a trip abroad with their pets to any country where mosquitoes are found. Heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites so if your dog or cat gets bitten when they are away on holiday with you, they run the risk of being infected!
However, there are lots of myths associated with heartworm disease which can make things a little confusing for both dog and cat owners alike when they travel abroad with their pets. Below is a list of myths about a condition that should never be taken too lightly:
Even if you are planning a holiday to a dry and arid area of the world with either your cat or dog in tow, they are still at risk of getting heartworms because mosquitoes can thrive in man-made ponds and waterways even in the driest of climates. They may not be around for very long during the year, but when these pesky parasites are about, your pets run the risk of being bitten and that's when the disease is transmitted.
This is another myth which needs to be demystified and although it is mostly dogs that are affected by the disease, our feline friends can be bitten and infected too. If you are taking your cat abroad with you to a place where there are heartworm carrying mosquitoes, you need to take all the precautions necessary to avoid them from getting this horrible disease even if you never let them into the great outdoors when you are away!
Heartworm disease is a very serious, life-threatening condition. If a cat or a dog gets the disease and they are not treated straight away, the infection becomes so severe that oxygen is cut off to their vital organs which results in their death. It is crucial to set in place preventative measures and if your pet should contract heartworms when you are away, a vet would need to treat them as a matter of urgency if they show any symptoms when you return home. The sooner a treatment is set in place, the better the outcome tends to be.
Heartworm disease is not a contagious condition that can be passed from one animal to another when they come into contact with each other. The only way a cat or a dog can get heartworms, is by being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Dogs and cats cannot transmit heartworms on to people, the only way any animal and this includes dogs, cats, ferrets and all other mammals can become infected is if they are bitten by a mosquito. It is very rare for a person to be infected when they are bitten because the parasite cannot complete their full cycle in a human body, but they can cause lesions in a person's lungs.
According to a holistic vet in the States, there are two natural preventative treatments for heartworm disease. One is a homeopathic vaccine and the other can be fed to pets in their food. However, if you are thinking about taking your cat or dog abroad with you this summer, it's worth discussing things with your vet well in advance of your departure date and ideally this should be a month before you leave the country so there's less chance of them contracting the disease.
With the right medication, it's easy to prevent a cat or a dog from getting heartworms, but the treatment has to be given a minimum of three week before your departure date and the treatment has to be continued while you are away. You also have to continue giving your pet their medication for another month on your return from holiday.
A simple blood test would reveal if your pet has contracted the disease and if they have, it's important that a treatment be started as soon as possible because the disease is a lot easier to treat in its first stages than it is further down the line.
It's great that owners can now take their dogs and cats away with them when they go on holiday abroad. The Pet passport system has made life easier for animal lovers who don't want to leave their pets behind when they take a holiday. However, whether you're heading off to Europe or further afield where mosquitoes are a problem, then you need to make sure your pet has received all the right preventative treatments before you actually leave the country. Once there, you need to make sure you carry on giving them their treatment and the same goes for when you return to the UK.