As a responsible dog owner, it’s important to be aware of the risks of heartworm disease and the necessary steps for heartworm prevention. The good news is that heartworm infections can be avoided. The better news is that stopping heartworms before they start is less expensive and much easier on your dog than treating a case of heartworms once it takes hold. The bad news is that the condition often causes lasting damage to the heart and can become fatal if it goes untreated.
Heartworm disease is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – long, thread-like worms living in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected dog. These harmful parasites are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito carrying larval heartworms, called microfilaria, which are then transmitted into the bloodstream of the bite victim. Heartworms can infect other animals too, but dogs are their natural hosts and thus are more at risk. Every dog breed is susceptible to heartworm infections, and cases have been reported in all 50 states.
Mosquitoes are more common in the warmer months, but our veterinary practice strongly recommends using a preventative medication year-round. If your dog is not already on a monthly preventative, the first step is to schedule a screening through a simple fecal test, since giving preventative medication can be harmful if your dog already has an undetected case of heartworms.
Once we have negative test results confirmed, we will recommend the best medication choices for your pet’s age, breed and size. The most common preventatives are given orally, topically or by injection. It is very important to administer the medicine in the proper dosage and on the prescribed schedule. Missing a dose or giving the wrong amount can leave your dog unprotected and at greater risk for heartworm infection. We also recommend annual screenings for all of our patients, to ensure that any breakthrough cases are caught and treated early.
Practicing good mosquito control measures around your home will also help reduce the transmission risk of heartworm disease and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Make sure you don’t allow standing water to accumulate around your home or property, since even a small amount of stagnant water can become a mosquito breeding ground. Mosquito repellents that are pet-safe can also be necessary in some cases and climates.
Heartworm disease is a serious condition, but thankfully it is also preventable and most often treatable when caught early. Call us today at 720-790-4935 or visit Dugan’s Veterinary Hospital to schedule a consultation, and together we can work to keep heartworm disease from causing problems before they start.