The health of your canine companion is important. Hence, you need to do everything possible to keep your furry friend safe and healthy. That includes ensuring that heartworms do not infest your dog’s heart. These dangerous parasites can live in the bloodstream and lungs as well.
What Is Heartworm Disease?
This is a serious and potentially deadly disease caused by worms that can grow as long as one foot. Heartworms can cause heart failure, lung disease, and severe damage to other body organs. They can affect many animals, including dogs, cats, and other mammal species. In rare cases, heartworms can live in humans as well.
How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?
Dogs get heartworms through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no other way they get these parasites. Unfortunately, there is no way to differentiate between an infected and noninfected mosquito. That is why heartworm prevention is so important.
Once bitten by an infected mosquito, it will take about seven months for the larvae to mature into adult worms. Once they lodge into your dog’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels, the adult heartworms will begin reproducing. They can live for up to seven years, and your furry friend can have as many as 250 heartworms in its system.
When to Test Your Dog for Heartworms
Veterinarians use blood tests to check for heartworms in dogs. The frequency and timing of these tests will depend on several factors. These include:
- The age at which heartworm prevention started.
- Whether your dog recently traveled to an area where heartworm disease is common.
- The last time you gave your dog heartworm prevention.
- Whether you recently switched heartworm prevention regimes.
- The length of the heartworm season where you live.
If your dog is seven months or older, you should have them tested for heartworms before starting prevention treatments. On the outside, your dog may appear healthy. However, heartworms may still be living and thriving on the inside.
Recommended Frequency of Heartworm Prevention in Dogs
According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworm prevention is the best course of action. After all, it is easy to prevent heartworms. But treating heartworm disease can be very difficult and costly. The AHS recommends providing 12 months of preventative care.
Heartworm prevention is available in several forms. There are six-month injections, as well as monthly chewable and monthly topical products. Your veterinarian will help you choose the appropriate preventative care for your furry friend. The frequency of preventative care depends on the specifics of your dog’s health and requirements. Some heartworm prevention products also protect against other types of parasites.
As stated earlier, heartworms come from infected mosquitoes. The risk of infection increases during the warmer seasons. That is when mosquitoes are more active. However, that does not mean that you should stop preventative care when mosquitoes are less active. Heartworm medications can work retroactively. That means that they halt infections transmitted several weeks or months ago.
For more on heartworm prevention, call Highland Veterinary Clinic at 812-710-4300 to reach our office in Evansville, Indiana.