Heartworm disease is a threat 365 days a year and is a big problem in Louisiana. Heartworms are easy to prevent, but difficult, painful and expensive to cure. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal.

Dogs and cats can become infected with heartworms only through the bite of an infected mosquito. Even if your dog or cat is an inside-only pet, it is still at risk.

Heartworms are not contagious. Your human family members and other pets cannot catch them from an infected pet.

Symptoms are not always apparent. In fact, at the onset, there are no symptoms. It takes about seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. They then lodge in the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels and begin reproducing.

Adult worms can be up to 12 inches long and can live five to seven years. A dog can have more than 250 worms in his system. As more and more worms crowd the heart and lungs, most dogs will develop a cough. As the disease progresses, your dog will become winded more easily and will not have the level of energy he once had. With advanced heartworm disease, dogs can pass out from loss of blood to the brain, and they can retain fluids. Eventually, most dogs will die if not treated.

Dogs with heartworms are adoptable, if there is a commitment to having the disease treated properly. Heartworm treatment consists of a series of injections over a period of time that will kill the adult heartworms in the blood vessels of the heart. During treatment, the worms begin to die and break up into pieces, which can cause a blockage of the pulmonary vessels and can result in death. Because of this risk, a dog undergoing treatment must be kept calm and quiet during the course of the treatment and for a period afterward.

A dog that has been treated for heartworms can contract them again. Going through heartworm treatment does not make your dog immune to the disease, which is why regular heartworm prevention is so important.

It is best to have your pet tested for heartworms annually, even if he is on preventative.

Events

ICE CREAM SOCIAL: An Animal Rescue New Orleans adoption event will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday as part of an ice cream social at Longue Vue House and Gardens, 7 Bamboo Road, New Orleans. Admission is free for members and $8 for others.

For information, send email to jgick@longuevue.com or call (504) 293-4723.

BAKE SALE: An LA/SPCA neighborhood pet adoption event and bake sale will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Clearview Mall, 4436 Veterans Memorial Blvd. For information, call (504) 368-5191 or visit la-spca.org.

DOG WASH: An Animal Rescue New Orleans adoption event and dog wash will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Whole Foods Market Arabella Station, 5600 Magazine St., New Orleans. For information, send email to adoptfromarno@yahoo.com.

ROCK, RIDE & RESCUE: Sunpie Barnes & the Sunspots will perform during the Rock, Ride & Rescue fundraiser from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at Rock ’n’ Bowl, 3016 S. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans. Beneficiaries will be the LA/SPCA Off-Site Adoption Team’s heartworm fund, the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center and the Molly the Pony Foundation. Tickets $10 and are available at la-spca.org/rockriderescue or (504) 453-3048.

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at arno. advocate@gmail.com, call (504) 571-1900 or visit www. animalrescueneworleans.org.