What is heartworm?
Heartworm is a parasite in the heart and blood of dogs.
How do they get it?
Heartworm is passed when a mosquito bites an infected dog, then incubates the larva and eventually passes the larva to another dog.
How likely will this happen?
The disease does occur around this area, so it is possible for any dog to develop the infection. It is more likely for a dog that is outside, in swampy/mosquito ridden areas, especially at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are likeliest to be active, to become infected.
Heartworm disease is treated usually by an injection given in hospital once a day for 2 days. Unfortunately the treatment does carry with it a lot of possible risks. The risks depend on the condition of the dog to start with and the precautions that are taken to determine what damage has been done by the parasite. The treatment is also expensive compared to preventive measures, so we recommend prevention.
How is it prevented?
There are several preventive medications available to give to dogs during the time period they are likely to be exposed to mosquitoes capable of infecting them. Talk to one of our Veterinary team members to determine which product best suits your pets needs.
What would happen if I don’t treat it? What would happen to my dog with the disease?
This varies a lot. Some dogs are very ill and some are not. It depends on the number of heartworms present and the condition of the dog to start with. Typical symptoms include loss of energy and a worsening cough and some dogs do die from this. If not treated an infected dog is also a reservoir of infection to other dogs.
How do we know if my dog has this?
A blood test will tell us, and is done regularly to ensure your dog does not have this. We recommend the test be done 2 years in a row initially, then every 2 to 3 years after that while getting preventive medications. If your dog doesn’t get all the preventive medication he/she should, then a test should be done. The only exception is dogs under 6 months old. They can be started on the preventive medication before testing. If the test is declined, a release form must be signed before dispensing heartworm medication.
Why does the test need to be done if I’m using the medication?
The drug manufacturers recommend it, and will only guarantee their product if it is done, but we also need to monitor regularly because of the possibility your dog brought up the pill.
When do I start preventive medication?
June 1st, once a month to November 1st, or puppies when they are 2 months or older. Starting up to July 1st is still o.k.
When do I test?
We generally test from April 15th to June 1st if the dogs were born before October 15th the year before. Then as stated earlier they should be tested 2 years in a row, then every 2-3 years after while getting the preventive medication. If medication is missed or started after July 1st, the dog should be tested the next spring.