Heartworm Disease: Everything You Need to Know

April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Since April also marks the beginning of mosquito season in California and is quickly approaching, this seemed like the perfect time for us to help you make sure your pets (dogs especially) are adequately protected.

What Are Heartworms?

Heartworms are a type of parasitic roundworm that most commonly infects dogs, but can also affect cats. Heartworm larvae are delivered through the bite of an infected mosquito. These larvae then travel through a pet’s bloodstream until they reach the heart and lungs where they will mature and grow.

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Dogs are the most common host for heartworms, which means the parasites thrive inside a dog’s body, mature, and reproduce. As many as several hundred heartworms can live inside a dog’s body. Left untreated, the parasite’s numbers will only increase, damaging the dog’s heart, arteries, and lungs.
Symptoms include:
Unaddressed, heartworm disease eventually leads to heart failure and death.

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Cats are atypical hosts for heartworms, which means the parasites don’t thrive as successfully in cats as they do in dogs. However, cats can still get heartworms that can damage their bodies. Although most heartworms don’t survive while a cat matures, a few can remain that lead to the condition called heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD).
Symptoms of heartworms in cats include:
Additionally, heartworms in cats can move to other parts of the body like a cat’s eyes or brain where they will cause great damage.

Why Heartworm Prevention Is So Important

Heartworm disease often proves fatal for dogs and, if not fatal, it can cause serious illness in cats. While there is a treatment for dogs with heartworms, it has a low success rate. There is no treatment available for cats who have heartworms.

Annual Testing and Heartworm Preventatives for Dogs and Cats

We always emphasize the importance of preventing cats and dogs from getting heartworms in the first place and encourage our clients to be vigilant about administering their pet’s heartworm preventative. Heartworm preventatives come in monthly pill-form and injectable-form (like a vaccination given every six months).

Prior to administering a heartworm preventative, however, it’s imperative to screen a dog for existing heartworms. Administering a heartworm preventative to a dog that is already a carrier of heartworms can be fatal.

Schedule Your Pet's Heartworm Prevention Appointment Before April

To ensure your pet is protected this mosquito season, schedule a heartworm prevention appointment with Signature Veterinary Services before April. Our mobile veterinary clinic will come to you to test your pet for heartworm disease and provide you with the best preventative available.

It's Spay/Neuter Awareness Month!

Each year in the United States, 6.5 million companion animals are turned into animal shelters, and every year, about 1.5 million stray animals are euthanized. Spay & Neuter Awareness Month was created to help prevent the overcrowding of animal shelters and needless deaths by spreading awareness about the importance of sterilizing our pets.
Our veterinarians at Signature Veterinary Services encourage our pet parents to spay or neuter their pets not only to prevent the birth of unwanted litters and overcrowded animal shelters, but also to provide their pets with a whole host of health benefits.

4 Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

1. Prevent Unwanted Behaviors

Territory marking, unwanted aggression, and howling/yowling are all behaviors associated with your pet’s natural instinct to reproduce. Having a pet spayed or neutered will drastically reduce these instincts, creating a better-behaved pet.

2. Prevent Roaming

Pets that are left intact also have a tendency to roam. They’ll work hard to break out of their fences or sneak out of the house in search of a mate. Spaying or neutering your pet will eliminate their desire to wander and subsequently become lost or injured.

3. Reduce the Risk of Contagious Disease

Pets that are spayed or neutered come into contact with fewer animals throughout their lives. As a result, they’re exposed to fewer contagious diseases and are much more likely to remain healthy.

4. Eliminate the Risk of Reproductive Cancers

Spaying removes a female pet’s ovaries and uterus, and neutering removes a male pet’s testicles. As a result, cancers associated with these organs are eliminated entirely and the risk of developing other cancers, like breast cancer, are significantly reduced.

Is Spay/Neuter Surgery Safe?

The benefits of having a pet spayed or neutered far outweigh the risks. Spay and neuter surgeries require anesthesia. Our veterinarians will perform a physical examination and, depending on your pet’s age, history, and exam findings, will recommend appropriate diagnostics prior to the procedure. These tests ensure your pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia.

Although there is always some amount of risk during surgeries, spaying and neutering are both common, routine procedures that our veterinarians are highly skilled and experienced at performing.

Schedule an Appointment for Your Pet Today

To schedule an appointment for your cat or dog or to learn more about sterilizing your puppy, kitten, or intact adult pet, we welcome you to contact Signature Veterinary Services. Our mobile veterinary clinic is fully equipped with a surgical suite to provide all the care your pet needs and to protect our local animal shelters from overcrowding.

Should You Get Health Insurance for Your Pet?

Although people have insurance for themselves, their homes, vehicles, and other valuables, many pet owners aren’t aware that health insurance is available for their pets. Others simply choose not to purchase it.
Without pet health insurance, however, you might not be able to cover the cost of your pet’s veterinary care, and no pet owner should ever have to choose between their beloved pets and their finances.
At Signature Veterinary Services, we want to raise awareness about pet health insurance and the reasons why it’s a smart investment.

Is Pet Health Insurance Worth It?

Routine veterinary care is affordable and includes regular expenses that can be anticipated. It’s easy to budget for services like annual wellness plans, checkups, vaccinations, and health screenings.
If a pet falls ill, ingests a foreign object or poison, or has a traumatic injury, unexpected veterinary costs are significant. When you account for the price of anesthesia, medications, procedures, supportive care, and recovery, the cost of veterinary services such as emergency care, sick pet care, and pet surgery can add up to thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, most Americans have little savings and can’t afford to cover a $1,000-dollar emergency.
In these cases, pet owners and veterinarians have their hands tied. Although everyone wants to make the best decisions for a pet’s treatment, covering the costs without pet health insurance often is not feasible.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Pet health insurance premiums can cost anywhere from $30 to $90 per month. Premiums depend on the policy you choose for your pet, your deductible amount, your pet’s breed, and often their health history. There are a variety of pet health insurance policies available, and you’ll be able to choose the one that best meets your needs.

How Does Pet Health Insurance Work?

Similar to health insurance for people, every pet health insurance policy is different and works a little differently. Pet insurance policies typically have deductibles, which means you’ll pay a certain amount of your pet’s veterinary bill before the insurance company covers either all or a percentage of the remaining balance. Depending on your policy, you might be responsible for paying the veterinary costs upfront and submitting the bill for reimbursement.

Pet Emergencies Happen; Be Prepared with Pet Insurance

No matter how carefully you care for your pets, emergencies and unexpected illnesses can still happen. When your pet has an emergency, the last thing you want to worry about is money. Be prepared. Ask Signature Veterinary Services about pet health insurance policies today.

Keeping Pets Healthy for Life During National Immunization Month

During August, our veterinarians celebrate National Immunization Month by raising awareness about the importance of vaccines for cats and dogs. Vaccinating is one of the most important components of your pet’s wellness and preventive care; vaccines are safe, simple, and extremely effective. While some health problems are unavoidable, there’s no reason to leave your pets vulnerable to the dangers of contagious diseases that we are able to prevent. With a simple schedule of vaccines, your pet will be protected from some of the most dangerous and contagious diseases.

Which Vaccinations Does Your Pet Need?

Cats and dogs receive a schedule of core (essential) vaccines and might also receive additional, non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are those that are strongly recommended and/or legally required for all pets to receive. Core vaccines protect pets from diseases like rabies, parvovirus, distemper virus, calicivirus, and herpesvirus.
Non-core vaccines aren’t necessary for every pet but are recommended based on each pet’s lifestyle, environment, and exposure risk. These include Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Influenza, rattlesnake, and Leukemia (in adults) vaccines.

Setting Up Your Pet's Vaccine Schedule

To keep the whole family safe, a pet owner simply needs to understand that pets require a combination of core and non-core vaccines on a set schedule. Your pet’s veterinarian will help you figure out the rest.
Typically, puppies and kittens begin receiving vaccines at about 6 to 8 weeks of age. To ensure their protection from disease, they then require booster shots every 3 to 4 weeks until at or after 16 weeks of age.
Once fully vaccinated puppies and kittens become adults, they will need core vaccine boosters every 1 to 3 years and non-core vaccine boosters as frequently as every 6 months. It’s also important to check with a veterinarian before traveling or relocating with your pet because different environments put pets at risk for contracting different diseases. These types of risks can be easily avoided by administering new vaccinations prior to your departure.

Signature Veterinary Services Brings the Vaccination Celebration to You!

If you’re too busy to visit a veterinary clinic or have a pet that gets anxious in new places, you can still make sure your pets are fully protected with an up-to-date schedule of vaccinations with Signature Veterinary Services. With our mobile veterinary clinic, our veterinarians will bring the vaccinations and wellness care to your doorstep! To learn more about the at-home veterinary services we provide or to schedule a preventive care appointment for your Carlsbad pet, we welcome you to contact us today.