by Dr. Kristin Claricoates
Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital

Kristin C iguana

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Here’s what you need to know.

What animals need to be concerned about heartworm?

At this time, heartworm disease only affects cats, dogs, and ferrets—not birds or reptiles.

How can an animal get heartworms?

Animals get heartworms from being bitten by mosquitos. Dogs, cats, and ferrets need monthly prevention medication to protect them from these parasites. Even if your pet does not go outside, mosquitoes can get into the house and bite them.

Mosquitoes get heartworm parasites from biting infected animals and then spread the disease by biting other animals. This means they are the “vector”, or the thing that spreads the infection. A single heartworm is enough to kill a ferret. Dogs and cats can harbor more heartworms because their hearts are larger, but heartworm disease is a serious illness. Management and treatment of heartworms is different for dogs and cats than ferrets. Prevention is far safer and more beneficial than treatment, as treatment is risky, and can even potentially cause death in a ferret, dog, or cat. Ask your veterinarian about how to protect your pet from heartworms.