Heartworms are parasitic worms which live in the hearts of dogs. They are transmitted by mosquitos. No dog is immune to these parasites, but dogs that spend large amounts of time outdoors are at a greater risk. Left untreated, heartworms will damage the heart lungs and major blood vessels. Once this damage occurs, it is irreversible and eventually fatal.
However, heartworms can be treated if caught early. However, the treatment is not without risk. Multiple X-rays and blood work to test the dog’s general health must be performed to assess if the patient is healthy enough to withstand treatment. The treatment consists of several injections over a course of several months. Each injection requires 12 hours of hospitalization and monitoring to ensure the pet does not have any complications from treatment. There are cases where the heartworm treatment is fatal.
PREVENTION IS KEY
The disease is fatal, the treatment is severe and risky, and so what can a pet parent do? The answer is PREVENTION. Heartworms are easily prevented by giving your dog a once a month chewable tablet. This medication will stop heartworms from developing in your dog even if a mosquito carrying the deadly larvae bites him or her. Given once a month 12 months a year will also prevent roundworms and hookworms from developing – two of the most common intestinal parasites which dogs suffer from.
Our World of Animals Veterinarians recommend that every dog aged 1 year and over be tested once a year for heartworms and be given heartworm prevention (after a negative test) once a month all year long. The test is quick, and results will be ready the same day. Preventative medication is reasonably priced and far less expensive than treatment. We are seeing more heartworm positive cases in our hospitals than ever before, as more dogs from the south (more mosquitos) travel north in search of homes through adoption agencies.
Don’t let your best friend become a statistic – test yearly and treat monthly.