Now that summer is in full swing, heartworm is even more of a danger for your four-legged friend. It’s very important that your dog is protected against these harmful pests! Below, your Salisbury, NC vet tells you everything you need to know about heartworm.
Dogs get heartworm when they’re bitten by an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes pick up immature forms of heartworm, called microfilariae , upon biting an infested animal. In the mosquito, the microfilariae develop into heartworm larvae, which get transmitted into a dog when the mosquito bites it. Then, the larvae develop into adult worms and start to migrate through the dog’s bodily tissue toward the heart and lungs.
A dog might not show symptoms at all for many months after initial infestation. When symptoms do start to appear, they usually include lethargy, loss of appetite, a persistent cough, respiratory issues, weight loss, and—without treatment—heart failure and even death. If you see these symptoms in your dog, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
Your veterinarian will take a blood sample to determine if your dog is heartworm positive. Upon confirmation of a positive test, treatment will begin. That involves medications that kill off the adult heartworms (usually melarsomine) as well as other medicines (like ivermectin) that kill the microfilariae. Unfortunately, this treatment process is somewhat risky and time-consuming, and a dog undergoing this treatment must be closely monitored throughout the process to make sure they stay safe.
Obviously, it’s much safer and easier to prevent heartworm in the first place. You can accomplish this by keeping your dog on a high-quality heartworm preventative medication. These medicines work by killing the immature worms before they’re able to develop into adults. Heartworm medications come in a pill or tablet form given by mouth, or they might come as a topical gel that gets applied to your dog’s skin. There are even injectable heartworm medications that are administered via syringe at your vet’s office.
Most veterinarians will recommend that your dog stay on a year-round heartworm medication to keep Fido protected at all times. Since heartworm medicines ward off plenty of other harmful worms—roundworm, hookworm, tapeworms, and more—it’s almost always a good idea.
Is your dog in need of heartworm preventatives? Call your Salisbury, NC vet clinic.