How do dogs get heartworm?
A dog can be infected with heartworm when bitten by a mosquito that is carrying heartworm larvae. The larvae travel through the bloodstream to the lungs and the major blood vessels of the heart. The larvae then mature into adult worms and can multiply in large numbers. It takes about six months for heartworm infection to be detectable on a blood test.
What can we do?
Heartworm disease can cause irreversible damage to the lungs and heart and can be potentially fatal. Signs of heartworm disease include a persistent cough, exercise intolerance, decreased appetite and weight loss. Recommendations will be discussed with you during your appointment, there are multiple medications designed for the specific needs of your pet.
How do we treat?
Treatment of heartworm disease involves multiple hospitalizations, injections and pain medication. Since the treatment has significant risks and expense, it is strongly recommended to prevent heartworm infection rather than dealing with the disease.
What do we recommend?
Prevention is much less expensive than treatment and involves administering a monthly topical or oral medication from June to November. Dogs who travel to the U.S. may need to be on prevention all year round because of differences in climate. For adult dogs, we recommend testing for heartworm every year when not on a preventative product, and every two years when on prevention. For puppies, we recommend testing two years consecutively, starting at a minimum of 6 months of age. Testing involves taking a small blood sample and running a 10-minute test in-clinic. Early detection of heartworm infection can prevent some of the damage caused by the disease and can make treatment safer.