Keep Worms out of Your Pet’s Heart

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease. Approximately 1 million pets in the US have heartworm disease. It’s caused by foot-long roundworms that settle into the heart, blood vessels, and lungs of an affected pet. These worms can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease can cause lasting damage to a dog’s health and quality of life even after the parasites are gone. It takes 6-7 months for larvae to mature to adulthood where it begins its reproduction cycle. A single heartworm can live up to seven years. 

Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, meaning that heartworms live inside the dog mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. Dogs can have several hundred worms in their body. Heartworm disease in cats is very different. Cats are atypical hosts for heartworms, meaning most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats typically have just one to three worms. 

How do Pets Get Heartworm Disease?

Mosquitos are the most common carrier of heartworm and play an essential role in transmission. Female mosquitos pick up larvae in the bloodstream of infected animals and then transmit the larvae to the next animal it bites. Unfortunately, all it takes is one bite. Once inside the new host, it takes about 6 months for the larvae to develop into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5-7 years in dogs and 2-3 years in cats. 

What are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?

Signs of Infection in Dogs: In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all, making it almost impossible to notice in dogs, which is why testing is so important. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. 

  • Coughing
  • Easily fatigued
  • Lethargic
  • Lack of interest in play or exercise
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

How can Heartworm Disease be Prevented?

Regular heartworm testing is key. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, which can be done during a routine visit or a low-cost Wellness Clinic, like Planned PEThood. Even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, they should still be tested annually to ensure that the prevention is working. 

A monthly preventative is recommended and gives your dog the best chance of avoiding these parasites. Heartworm preventative is available only by prescription through a veterinarian. Some preventatives also protect against other types of parasites. 

Puppies under 7 months can be started on heartworm prevention without a test, but should then be tested 6 months after starting the preventative. Adult dogs over 7 months and dogs previously not on a preventative need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention. If there has been a lapse in prevention (one or more late or missed doses), dogs should be tested.

FAQ About Heartworm Preventatives:

Can Heartworm be Treated?

Yes, heartworm can be treated, but it is an expensive and complex process that is extremely tough on the dog. The earlier the disease is detected, the better. 

How Do Monthly Heartworm Preventatives Work?

Monthly preventatives work by eliminating any immature heartworm parasites. Because the preventative cannot effectively eliminate juvenile or adult larvae, it is important to administer heartworm on a strict schedule. 

Do I Need a Prescription for Heartworm Preventative?

Yes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that heartworm preventatives must be purchased from your veterinarian or with a prescription from a pet pharmacy. 

Are Heartworms More Common in Certain Areas of the US?

Heartworms have been found in all 50 states. Weather (temperature and humidity) and the presence of mosquito breeding areas both affect the level of risk of heartworm infection. 

Learn more about heartworm disease.

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Keep Your Pets Safe This New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve can be such a fun time for us but can be a frightening and overwhelming experience for our furry family members.

The loud noises from fireworks can cause stress to our pets and result in unwanted situations. Frightened, panicked pets tend to bolt and run far away from whatever spooked them, leading to lots of lost pets. This is an extremely busy time of the year for animal shelters and rescues across the country as more pets panic over fireworks and end up lost. The only other day on which more pets go missing is the Fourth of July.

Here are a few simple tips for a stress-free, safe day for both you and your pets:

Microchip and ID Your Pets. Proper identification may be the only way to help reunite with your pets should they become lost. Having an up-to-date microchip and collar with an ID tag can make a huge difference. Tags are available at most pet stores and even many Walmart locations. Planned PEThood offers microchips for only $25 and that includes registration. All other veterinary clinics offer this service as well, ranging from $24-$75

Work Them Out Before the Festivities Begin. Take your dog for a long walk or a run several hours before the festivities begin. Indoor playtime exercise is great for cats. Giving your pets lots of exercise during the day can help so they’ll be worn out once the fireworks start. A tired pet is a calmer pet and can help with stress and anxiety levels.

Keep Them Indoors. Loud sounds can scare your pets, causing them to bolt. Put them in an indoor, cozy spot well before the fireworks start. If possible, stay home with your pets. When home alone, pets are more likely to panic. Having someone can comforting for your pet.

Provide a Safe, Quiet Place. Help your pet feel safer in a quiet room to crate that is escape-proof. Try blocking out the light from outside.

Provide Distractions. Focus their attention on things such as toys or treats to encourage their minds to focus on that, rather than the noises outside. Use TV or music to mask the sounds outside. Consider a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or a cat nip toy.

Ask a Veterinarian for Help. Some pets are more terrified of fireworks than others. There are medications and techniques that might help with your pet’s fear and anxiety. If your pet’s anxiety is severe, it might be helpful to book an appointment with your vet well in advance of the holiday to discuss how to best help your fur baby.

Do your pets a favor and make sure they are well-protected and safe for the holidays so they’re with you for many years to come! 

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Keep Your Pets Safe This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday that brings friends and family together. Thanksgiving can carry some hazards for our pets, ranging from food to company, to travel. While it’s tempting to include our furry friends in this celebration, it’s best to leave them out of the festivities or include pet-specific activities and treats.

Here are a few tips to help make the holiday as pet-friendly as possible and keep your pets healthy and safe:

Food: Thanksgiving is all about food, but not all human food is safe for pets. Here are a few common Thanksgiving foods to keep an eye on. If you have Thanksgiving guests, ask that they don’t feed your pets. It could save your pet’s life!

  1. Turkey Bones. They can be a choking hazard and can damage your pet’s digestive tract. No matter how much they beg, say no!
  2. Fatty Foods. Items such as butter, cream, gravy, bacon, and turkey skin, are hard for pets to digest. They can cause a painful and serious condition known as pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas.
  3. Human Foods. Foods that are perfectly safe for humans, such as garlic, onions, raisins, and grapes are poisonous to pets. Bread dough and yeast dough can cause painful gas and even dangerous bloating. To be safe, avoid giving your pet any human foods and buy them a special pet-specific treat instead at your local pet store.
  4. Chocolate and Sugar. Most people know chocolate is bad for dogs and cats, but artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol, can be dangerous if consumed by your pets, so avoid these as well. These are even in many peanut butter brands these days.
  5. Cover the Trash. Put the trash away, where your pets can’t find it. Cover the trash in a tightly secured trash bag, and place it in a closed trashcan where your furry friend can’t access it. All your hard work keeping them safe can be undone by a quick trip in the trash.

Flowers and Plants: Lots of people buy decorative arrangements, plants, and flowers around Thanksgiving. Be careful with these as some flowers and plants can be toxic to pets. The ASPCA has lists of plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats. To be safe, keep your pets away from all plants and floral arrangements.

Guests: If you are hosting or having overnight guests for Thanksgiving, plan ahead to keep your pets safe. Unfamiliar visitors can be stressful for everyone.

  1. If you know your cat or dog is nervous when people visit your home, put him/her in another room or crate with their favorite toy. This will help reduce the emotional stress of your pet.
  2. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, watch the exits, especially when people are entering or leaving. Your four-legged friend may make a break for it out the door when you are greeting guests.
  3. Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information. This includes both microchips and tags. This way, if your pet does sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you.

Traveling with Your Pet: If you are traveling with your pets for Thanksgiving, be sure to take precautions.

  1. Never leave your pets alone in vehicles, even for a short time.
  2. Remember to pack for your pets – any medication, food, identification information, toys, etc.
  3. If you are driving a far distance, stop regularly so that your pet can stretch their legs, go potty, and have a drink of water.

Thanksgiving and pets go hand in hand – after all, we’re forever thankful for our furry family members. That’s why it’s a good idea to follow these tips and make your Thanksgiving as pet-friendly as possible.

Source: American Veterinary Medical Association Thanksgiving Pet Safety

Originally Published: November 16, 2022

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Calling All Cat Lovers! How To Celebrate Happy Cat Month

Calling all cat lovers! Happy Cat Month is celebrated every September. It’s a whole month dedicated to our feline friends and their well-being. CATalyst Council created this annual event to educate and inform cat owners on what they can do to ensure their pet is happy and healthy. 

Here are a few suggestions for pet parents to keep their feline fur babies happily purring:

Spend time with your cat

Cats LOVE attention and spending time with their owners. Snuggling, petting, and playing can be a fantastic way to spend time with your cat. Training your cat is another great way to spend time with your cat and help strengthen the bond between you and your fur baby. Cats are smart and food-oriented. Training them to do fun tricks or simple commands is a great physical and mental stimulation for felines. 

Keep your cat entertained

There are so many ways to do this! One of the easiest ways to make a cat happy and keep them entertained is with a new toy. Remember, not all toys have to be store-bought. Cats absolutely love a good, empty box. An empty box can entertain cats for hours. Cat scratching is not only mentally stimulating, but it is also good for their health. There are various cat scratchers you can find to set up around your home. Some cats enjoy watching TV. While it may seem silly, there are numerous videos on YouTube created to keep cats entertained. 

Keep your cat healthy

Schedule regular visits to the veterinarian to make sure your cat is healthy and free of any diseases or other health problems. Remember, a healthy cat is a happy cat. Yearly wellness visits can help catch medical issues early and ensure your cat is up-to-date on vaccinations. 

Give your cat a buddy

Most felines love the company of another kitty. Cats are social animals and enjoy having a playmate. Pet parents can visit a local animal shelter or rescue organization to find a feline friend for their fur baby. Having another cat can improve their quality of life.

Microchip your cat

Microchipping provides permanent identification in case your cat becomes lost. When scanned at a local shelter or vet, a microchip can show all your contact information to help your cat be reunited with you. It’s better to be prepared in case your cat is separated from you. Even if your cat is an indoor cat and never leaves the house, it’s a good idea to have a microchip in case the unexpected happens. 

These are just a few things to do to help your cat be happy and healthy. Happy Cat Month to your furry feline friends from all of us at Planned PEThood! 

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DO YOU KNOW – Which Vaccines Your Pet Should Have?

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of vaccinations, not just for humans but also for pets. It’s the perfect time to double-check that your pet is up-to-date with their vaccinations!

Why Vaccinate Your Pets?

Regularly scheduled wellness exams and vaccines keep your pet healthy. Vaccinating pets is an ongoing process, starting when they’re young and continuing throughout their lives. Vaccinations help to prevent diseases.

Different Vaccines:

Pet vaccines are usually split into two categories:

Core Vaccines are vaccines that are considered essential and are recommended for all pets. They protect pets from severe life-threatening diseases caused by viruses that have a global distribution. 

  • Core vaccines for dogs: Parvo, Distemper, Hepatitis (adenovirus), Rabies
  • Core vaccines for cats: Feline panleukopenia (distemper), Feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus (rhinotracheitis), Rabies, Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) (considered core in kittens)
  • In fact, current rabies vaccinations are required in many states to protect people and pets.

Non-core Vaccines are considered optional and given based on your pet’s lifestyle (staying inside, meeting with other pets, etc.), where you live, and your pet’s medical history. Several non-core vaccines protect against highly contagious or potentially life-threatening diseases. 

  • Non-core vaccines for dogs: Bordetella, Borrelia, Leptospirosis, Influenza
  • Non-core vaccines for cats: Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) (considered noncore in adults), Bordetella, Feline chlamydiosis
A vet listening to a dog's heart with a stethascope

When Should Your Pet Get Vaccinated?

The vaccination schedule for cats and dogs can vary, but typically kittens and puppies get their first vaccines when they’re around 6-8 weeks old. After that, they receive additional vaccines every 3-4 weeks until they’re about 16 weeks old. Once this initial series is completed, boosters are generally given annually or every three years, depending on the vaccine and the pet’s risk factors. 

As a responsible pet parent, it is vital to actively participate in the vaccination process. Regular vet visits ensure your pet receives their vaccines and stay healthy. A happy pet starts with good health, so take a moment to check if your fur babies are up-to-date on their vaccinations so they can live a long and joyful life. 

If your pet needs vaccines, book an appointment at our Wellness Clinic. Our clinic offers weekday appointments for routine veterinary care and vaccinations. Book today.


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Lost Pet Prevention Month: How You Can Help Your Pet

Pets are a part of the family. The last thing you want is for something to separate them from you – a door is left open, your dog slips out of its collar, or your cat takes an unapproved field trip without you. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 pets will become lost at some point in their lifetime. Tragically, many of these pets may not ever find their way back home. Losing a pet is like losing a loved one. It’s an experience no one should ever have to go through. National Lost Pet Prevention Month serves as the perfect reminder to make sure your pet stays safe and doesn’t get lost. 

Here are 6 helpful tips to make sure you don’t lose your pet: 

1. Microchip your pets. Microchipping is a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to increase the chances that your pet will return home if lost. A microchip is a tiny electronic chip, about the size of a grain of rice, that is injected under your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. When scanned by a microchip scanner, the microchip transmits an identification number. Animal shelters and veterinary clinics scan a pet’s microchip to get this identification number, then contact the registry in order to find contact information for the owners. The unique identification number doesn’t do any good unless you register it with a National Pet Recovering Database with your up-to-date contact information. Not sure which company to call? Type in your pet’s chip number at Can’t find your pet’s chip number? Come by our clinic or any clinic and just ask them to check it for you. Planned PEThood offers microchips through our Spay/Neuter Clinic and our Wellness Clinic for only $25 and that includes registration. 

2. Get a secure collar with ID tags. While your pet may never travel farther than your backyard or may never go outside at all, all pets should wear a collar with an ID. The ID should have their owner’s current contact information, including your pet’s name, your name, address, and phone number. You never know when your furry friend might make a mad dash out the door to investigate something. It’s important to check your dog’s collar routinely to make sure it’s still in proper shape. Collars can become loose and fall off or become torn. Tags are available at most pet stores and even many Walmart locations. 

3. Use leashes and carriers when outside the house. It’s important to use leashes or carriers when visiting the vet or when venturing outside. When you have your pets outside and not confined by a fenced yard, keep them on a leash. This will ensure they don’t run off to chase a squirrel and end up getting lost. This is especially important when you’re away from home in unfamiliar territory.

4. Secure your yard and home. One of the most common ways pets get lost is when they escape their yard. Make sure to routinely check the fencing around your yard to ensure they can’t wiggle through it or dig their way out. From fallen limbs to flash floods, many things can cause fences to become insecure, making it easier to escape. 

5. Make sure to spay/neuter your pets. Sterilizing your cat/dog reduces his/her urge to roam and get lost. When male pets aren’t neutered, they have a higher tendency to seek out females. This means that an unneutered pet is more likely to wander off from home and get lost trying to seek out female dogs. Female dogs also benefit from spaying surgery. Aggressive males can cause females to bolt. Male pets that haven’t been neutered also experience behavioral issues that make them less likely to recall or listen to commands. 

6. Pay attention to your pet. Paying attention to your pet is an easy way to prevent your pet from getting lost. No matter where you take your pet, you should pay attention to them and their surroundings, especially in unfamiliar locations. Your pet should always be in eyesight of you. Whether they’re in your backyard, at a dog park, or visiting friends or family, supervising your pets will prevent them from escaping. 

Keeping your pets safe, happy, and healthy is the most important thing you can do. Even if you believe you are the safest pet parent in the world, it’s a good idea to review these tips. While you’re at it, give them a big hug!

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Keep Your Pets Safe During Holiday Fireworks

As the 4th of July approaches, it’s important to remember that our furry friends experience these celebrations differently. This holiday is fun for us but can be the worst day imaginable for some cats and dogs. The loud noises from fireworks can cause stress to our pets and result in unwanted situations. Frightened, panicked pets tend to bolt and run far away from whatever scared them, leading to lots of lost pets. In fact, more pets go missing on July 4th than at any other time of the year, making July 5th the busiest day of the year for animal shelters nationwide. 

Here are a few simple tips for a stress-free, safe day for both you and your pets:

Microchip and ID your pets. Having an up-to-date microchip and collar with an ID tag can make a HUGE difference if your pet were to escape and get lost. Even if your pet is an indoor-only pet, they should still wear a collar and ID tag. They can become frightened during fireworks and try to escape. Ensure your microchip information and ID tags are up-to-date with current contact information. Tags are available at most pet stores and even many Walmart locations.

Work them out. Giving your pets lots of exercise during the day can help so they’ll be worn out once the fireworks start. A tired pet is a calmer pet and can help with stress and anxiety levels. 

Keep them indoors. Loud sounds can scare your pets, causing them to run away. Put them in a cozy spot well before the fireworks start. No matter how much fun it sounds, leave your pets are home for the firework show.

Provide a safe, quiet place. Help them feel safer in a quiet room or crate that is escape-proof. Try blocking out the light from outside.

Provide distractions. Focus their attention on things such as toys, treats, music, etc. Use TV or radio to mask the noises outside. Consider a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or a fun cat nip toy.

Ask a veterinarian for help. Some pets are more terrified of fireworks than others. There are medications and techniques that might help with your pet’s fear and anxiety. If your pet’s anxiety is severe, it might be helpful to book an appointment with your vet well in advance of the holiday to discuss how to help your fur baby. 

Do your pets a favor and make sure they are well-protected and safe so they’re with you for many years to come!

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Training Your Newly Adopted Puppy

New puppies are an exciting addition to families and add an instant spark to homes. Although these outstanding young pups bring cuteness and fun to their owners’ lives, they require special care and attention to feel safe, develop into healthy adults, and create strong bonds with all housemates. Depending on how old your puppy is when you pick them up, owners should be prepared to feed them right away, start potty training, keep them warm, and help them develop social skills. 

What You Should Know Before Bringing Your Puppy Home

Building a relationship with your puppy is the first and most critical step in petcare once your new companion makes it home. Having the time, space, and energy to make a loving home for your pup is vital. Make sure to have an area prepared where they’ll be comfortable, with a floor or floor coverings that are easy to clean. Keep in mind that transporting your puppy home can be extremely stressful for your pooch. Holding visitors at bay for a few days while they acclimate to your home and establish a routine is best for your puppy’s emotional health. 

Even amid the excitement of bringing home a new puppy, it’s important to remember to ask the caretaker about your dog’s health and make sure that you have what you need to feed and care for your puppy as soon as they get home.

Creating a Successful In-Home Puppy Training Academy

Plotting out a training plan for your puppy can begin before they even arrive. Once they’re home, starting a potty training regimen will help them develop a structured routine and get comfortable using the bathroom where they should (either a pad or outside). While your puppy is acclimating to their environment in the first week, be sure to introduce training concepts slowly and focus on feeding, fun, and some potty training. After you’ve established a schedule, tackling manners training should be the very next step. It’s essential to make training time fun and be consistent at the same time. Be patient with your pup and remember that practice, determination, and support will help your puppy progress. Remember to work on one area at a time until your puppy masters it before moving on to another concept. 

Key Training Areas

Housebreaking: Immediately after your puppy arrives at their new home, take them to their designated bathroom area where they should ideally do their business and make this a regular part of their day. Adult dogs have more blatter control than puppies do, and if you’re wondering how many hours your puppy can wait to use the bathroom, add one to their number of months. Example: 1 month + 1 = a maximum 2 hour wait time. Encourage your puppy once you get to their potty area and have them move around. A healthy diet will help to prevent accidents and promote bowel regularity. If your puppy has an accident, be patient with them, and use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior. 

Crate Training: Some people may consider crate training to be harsh or inhumane, but there are times when dogs need to be in crates for their own safety, and making sure that your puppy is calm and prepared for those instances will help prevent anxiety and injury. Crating also helps puppies to exercise blatter control and limits teething to their own toys. Before starting crate training, make sure that your puppy’s crate is the right size. Puppies can sleep in crates for up to six hours overnight and a crate can be used until your puppy grows out of adolescence. 

Socialization: Puppies’ brains develop at a rapid pace from 6 – 16 weeks of age, and introducing your pup to as many sights, sounds, smells, and experiences that you can during this time will help them to become far more adaptable as adults. Diverse environments and introducing them to a variety of different people (including children) and other dogs are a few areas that will help your puppy form a well-rounded perspective of the world. 

Chewing: Puppies that have a chewing issue may need more exercise, supervision, training, or chew toys. Be sure to take your puppy on a walk at least twice a day. Games, tricks, and training will also help them to stay entertained and develop good habits. Puppies do love to chew, and they discover the world around them through their sense of smell and taste. Getting a complete set of chew specific toys will keep their focus on their own items versus yours 


Puppies and humans have quite a bit in common, and keeping that in mind as you care for your puppy will help you to meet the needs of your pup fully. Your puppy’s behavior may not always be due to immaturity or age. It’s critical to watch for signs of separation anxiety and help your dog feel safe. Excessive barking, destructive actions, frequent potty accidents, and pacing, whining, or trembling could all potentially be signs of more profound distress. 

Don’t hesitate to give your puppy lots of love but also discourage clingy behavior at the same time. Start by teaching your puppy to entertain themselves on their own in a room in a non-destructive way. Plenty of exercise is always a plus, and using treats to reward your puppy when they act responsibly when alone will help them to look forward to behaving while you’re away. 

— Written by Abigail Baker is a writer for K9 Sport Sack, the top retailer for dog backpack carriers.

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