What is Heartworm?
Do you know how to protect your dog from heartworm?
Do you know the signs?
The American Heartworm Society reports that more than one million dogs currently have heartworm disease. They also report that heartworm is a serious canine and feline health concern that threatens animals in all 48 contiguous states and Hawaii, as well as throughout the temperate regions of the world. April is Heartworm Awareness Month.
Dogs get heartworms only by being bite by an infected mosquito and live in the heart and pulmonary arteries of infected animals. The disease can lead to heart failure, as well as damage to other organs.
Some myths state that it is spead from animal to animal by mosquitoes. According to the American Heartworm Society this is not true.
Dogs are a natural host for heartworms. Heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. That's why, heartworm prevention for dogs is so important.
It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.
Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse.
All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care.
1. Dogs get heartworms only by being bite by an infected mosquito.
2. Owners can NOT get heartworms from their dogs. It can only be passed by mosquitoes.
3. Other pets can NOT get heartworm from your infected dog.
4. To prevent heartworm, have annual testing done by your vet, give monthly pills, or monthly topicals that you can put on their skin.
5. Most noticeable symptom is a cough and lack of exercise in your pet.
6. Once infected, the safest way to treat heartworm includes x-rays, blood work,and blood work.
These medications, used for prevention, are also effective against other parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, fleas, and tapeworms. Make sure to use a formulation specifically intended for dogs.
According to the AKC, the following is a list of some preventatives. Discuss with your veterinarian about which one best fits your dog’s needs:
Heartgard ®Plus for Dogs (chewable, ivermectin/pyrantel)
Tri-Heart®Plus for Dogs (chewable, ivermectin/pyrantel)
Iverhart Max® for Dogs (chewable, ivermectin/pyrantel permeate/prziquantel)
Sentinel® for Dogs (chewable, milbemycin oxime/lufenuron/praziquantel)
Revolution® for Dogs (topical, selamectin)
Advantage Multi™for Dogs (topical, imidacloprid + moxidectin)
Trifexis (Milbemycin and spinosad)
ProHeart® 6 (injectable, given only by a veterinarian) — Lasts 6 months. Not effective against intestinal parasites.