OPVMC Pet Health Care
Heartworm Preventative Reminder

You most likely received a heartworm reminder from us that took you to this link on our website. If you don't have your dog(s)’ heartworm preventative and he or she has been examined within a year he or she is due.

Simply call our Prescription Refill Line at 716.662.3589 to refill his or her heartworm preventative medication.

However, if your dog missed any doses of their heartworm preventative last year we recommend a heartworm (blood) test. Even if he or she has been taking his or her heartworm preventative yearly, we still recommend a Heartworm test at least every two years and your dog is due.

Please call us at 716.662.6660 and select Option #3 if you need to schedule an appointment for an examination or Heartworm test.

Hope to see you soon.

To learn more about heartworm disease in the Western New York Area and the importance of heartworm preventative as well as OPVMC’s standard of care for preventing the disease please continue reading below.

Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center
Heartworm Standard of Care

Heartworm disease is a serious parasitic infection of dogs. As the name implies, the parasite (Dirofilaria immitus) lives in the heart and large blood vessels of the lung. Heartworm infection can lead to heart failure, lung damage, and death.

Is there treatment for heartworm disease?

Treatment is available, and dogs can survive heartworm disease. However, it is far easier, safer, and less expensive to prevent the disease than to treat it.

How is heartworm disease transmitted?

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. Dogs with active heartworm infections harbor large quantities of immature heartworms (larva) in their bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it draws some of these heartworm larvae with the blood meal. The heartworm larvae mature within the mosquito and become infective. If the mosquito bites another dog, infective larvae are injected into the new host where they develop into adult worms in the heart.

Heartworms require mosquitoes for part of their life cycle. Therefore, other blood-sucking insects such as fleas and flies cannot transmit the disease. Similarly, injecting larva from an infected dog directly into a non-infected dog cannot transmit heartworm---the larva must mature in a mosquito first.

The Heartworm Cycle in Dogs

Can my dog become infected any time I see mosquitoes?

Actually, climate plays a key role in the transmission of heartworm disease. The larvae require an average daily temperature of at least 57 degrees Fahrenheit to mature within the mosquito. In addition, the length of time it takes for the larva to mature depends on the average daily temperature.

Maturation can take as few as 8 days at 86 degrees Fahrenheit or as many as 29 days at 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

What this means is that the occasional mosquito seen during a February thaw is not going to transmit heartworm disease. In fact, transmission of heartworm disease ("heartworm season") in most areas of the continental United States generally lasts only for 6 months or less (except for the Southeastern and Gulf States). In the Buffalo area, transmission will generally occur only from June to October.

Heartworm Incidence Maps: Cases reported in 2010 versus 2016

United States Heartworm Map

United States Heartworm Map 2016

How can I prevent my dog from getting heartworm disease?

A number of very safe and effective preventative medications are available. They are available in pill form or as a liquid that is applied to the skin. These medications are given monthly during "heartworm season". Several heartworm preventatives will also prevent other parasitic infections including intestinal worms and fleas.

When should preventative medication be given?

For dogs living in the Buffalo area, we recommend year round heartworm preventative medication for protection against heartworm disease and to control pathogenic and/or zoonotic parasites.

Why should I give preventative medication year-round?

This represents the most stringent level of protection that keeps your pet as safe as possible as recommended by the American Heartworm Society. In addition, some clients find it easier to remember to give their dog medication when it’s given every month. If you choose not to provide year round protection then the minimum recommended level of protection is to give heartworm medication from June to November.

If a dog is likely to travel to an area of the country with a longer "heartworm season" than Buffalo (e.g., Florida), they should definitely be on year round heartworm preventative.

Is there a test for heartworm disease?

There are several blood tests used to detect heartworm infections. The most widely used detects the presence of adult worms in the heart by detecting minute particles (antigens), which the worms shed into the blood stream. It is important to note that once injected by the mosquito, it takes seven months for a heartworm larva to develop into an adult. Therefore, if the dog has been infected for less than seven months, the test will not detect the infection.

When should a dog be tested for heartworm disease?

The best time to test for heartworm disease in the Buffalo area is between March and June. Dogs receiving appropriate preventative medication should be tested yearly.

Any dog that did not receive preventative medication or had skipped one or more doses during the previous year's "heartworm season" is at risk for infection, and should be tested no earlier than seven months after the potential exposure. Puppies less than seven months of age are not tested; even if they were infected, the test would not detect it (it takes seven months for the heartworm to mature and the test to turn positive). Puppies are generally on preventative medication if they are less than seven months old at the start of "heartworm season".

What are the current recommendations of the Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center regarding heartworm prevention?

  1. All dogs in Western New York should receive year round heartworm preventative medication. For those clients that choose not to do year round heartworm preventative medication, at minimum they should receive it from at least from June through November.
  2. Dogs that routinely receive appropriate preventative medication are tested for heartworm disease at least every year, ideally in the spring.
  3. All dogs over the age of seven months should be tested annually for heartworm disease in the Spring if they did not receive continuous heartworm preventative during the previous "heartworm season".
  4. Dogs that travel to regions of the country with longer "heartworm seasons" and where heartworm is more prevalent (e.g., the South) should most definitely receive year-round preventative medication.

Can cats get heartworm disease?

While cats can become infected with heartworm in the same manner as dogs, they are much more resistant to infection. At the present time, the risk to Buffalo cats of heartworm infection is very low.

Though it is available, we do not currently recommend routine preventative medication for cats.