ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Heartworm Awareness Month is almost over, but considering more than a million pets in the U.S. have heartworms, there’s no time limit when it comes to learning about how to keep your furry friends happy and healthy.

According to health experts, heartworm disease is a serious parasitic condition where a long spaghetti-like worm takes up residence in the heart of a dog or cat. While it can several months months for the heartworms to fully mature following the initial exposures, they can cause vascular and organ damage, heart failure, and even death.

In honor of Heartworm Awareness Month, WFXR News’ Colleen Guerry asked Dr. Rebecca Moore, a veterinarian at VCA Valley Animal Hospital in Roanoke, a series of questions about the contraction, effects, treatment, and prevention of heartworm disease among animals:

How does heartworm disease affect animals?

What kind of treatments do heartworm positive animals require?

If someone adopts a heartworm positive animal, what should they expect?

How does an animal become heartworm positive?

Is there anything pet owners can do to protect their animals from heartworm disease?

According to Dr. Moore, symptoms of heartworm disease include persistent coughing, weight loss, and exercise intolerance.

If you are concerned that your pet may have heartworm disease, or if you want to take steps to protect your pet from heartworms, you are encouraged to reach out to your veterinarian.

You can also find more information and resources on the American Heartworm Society’s website.