What All Dog Owners Should Know About Heartworms
Parasite prevention is an essential component of every pet’s wellness and preventative care. While it’s important to keep your pet on a flea and tick preventative, it’s also vital to safeguard them from heartworms.
How Dogs Get Heartworms
A dog can become infected with heartworms when bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae. When bitten, heartworm larvae enter the dog’s bloodstream through the bite wound. The heartworms then live in the pet’s circulatory system where they grow, mature, and eventually begin to reproduce, creating even more heartworms.
The Signs and Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Dogs
Heartworms living in a pet’s circulatory system can cause irreversible, serious damage to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The damage that heartworms do causes an illness known as heartworm disease.
Symptoms of heartworm disease can include:
While some dogs develop caval syndrome and have severe symptoms (usually those with a large number of worms in their system), other dogs might not experience any symptoms (usually those with just a few worms in their system).
Heartworm Disease Diagnosis and Treatment
Dogs should be screened for signs of heartworms annually – whether or not they are currently on a preventative medication. We run two tests to screen for heartworms: an antigen test and a microfilariae test.
If diagnosed with heartworms, the treatment and outcome greatly depend on the severity of the symptoms. For dogs with no or minimal symptoms, treatment outcomes are generally positive, and treatment usually involves a stringent, highly specific, and lengthy treatment regimen with oral and injectable medications. More severely infected dogs might not be treatable if the organ damage is already too far advanced. If they can be treated, they might require surgery to remove larger worms from blocked blood vessels and supportive care throughout.
Why Prevention Is So Important
Since treatment for heartworm disease is so complex and not always reliable, prevention is key.
Heartworm Prevention for Pets in Tucson
Heartworms have been detected in all 50 states, and, although they are most prevalent from March through October, the mosquitoes that carry and spread heartworms are active in our area all year long. For this reason, we strongly encourage pet owners to keep their dogs and cats on heartworm preventative medications all twelve months of the year.
To learn more about how to protect your dog or cat from heartworms, we welcome you to schedule an appointment at Adobe Veterinary Center today.