Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the hearts of dogs; mosquitos transmit them. No dog is immune to these parasites, but dogs that spend large amounts of time outdoors are at a greater risk. Untreated heartworms will damage the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels. Once this damage occurs, it is irreversible and eventually fatal.
However, heartworms are treatable 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 the treatment. The treatment consists of several injections over 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
If the disease is fatal and the treatment is severe and risky, what can a pet parent do? The answer is PREVENTION. Heartworms are easy to prevent 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, it will also prevent roundworms and hookworms from developing – two of the most common intestinal parasites from which dogs suffer.
Our World of Animals Veterinarians recommends that every dog aged one 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 the results will be ready the same day. Preventative medication is reasonably priced and far less expensive than treatment. We see 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.