A heartworm infection in a dog is a serious illness. After a mosquito bites a dog and introduces heartworms into the dog's bloodstream, the heartworms mature and invade the dog's heart and blood vessels. Over time, heartworm damage to the heart, liver, and lungs can be fatal.
Your dog's veterinarian has preventive and treatment options for heartworm infections. Here are three facts you should know about heartworms and dogs.
1. Heartworms Infect Dogs Across the Nation
Veterinarians have diagnosed heartworm infections in all 50 U.S. states and throughout the world. Your dog is not immune from exposure to heartworms as long as there are mosquitoes in the vicinity of your pet.
Schedule annual testing of your dog at the veterinarian's office to check for the presence of heartworm infection. Have yearly heartworm screening performed on all dogs that are seven months of age or older.
If tests are positive for heartworms (meaning that heartworms have been detected), begin treatment for infection right away. If tests are negative for heartworms (meaning no heartworm stages are found in your dog's system), your dog should be started on a heartworm preventive as soon as possible.
2. Heartworm Prevention Is Vital to Protect Your Dog
One bite from the wrong mosquito can infect your dog with heartworms. Mosquitoes can suddenly appear when spring has an early or sudden onset and before dogs have had their heartworm doses for spring.
Don't wait to bring your dog in for a late winter-early spring veterinary checkup and heartworm-medication refill. Keep your dog on a year-round schedule of heartworm preventives to provide maximum heartworm protection.
When your dog receives their heartworm preventative, your veterinarian can apply EPA-registered mosquito repellent to keep mosquitoes from pestering your dog. Your pet's veterinarian will also prescribe flea and tick preventatives to further protect your dog from parasites.
Prevent mosquito development around your home by keeping things nice and dry. Mosquitoes can breed in tiny amounts of water, including rainwater captured by pool toys and old pails.
Dump out all standing water around your property, repair hose and spigot leaks, and address backyard drainage issues to reduce mosquito populations. Fix damaged screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
3. Heartworm Infections Are Managed With Care
If your dog's veterinarian diagnoses heartworms in your pet, your veterinarian will discuss all of the treatment options with you. Your veterinarian may need to take it slow when killing all of the heartworms.
Heartworms can grow up to a foot long. If the worms are killed too rapidly, the dead worms can clog up blood flow and cause problems with your dog's major organs.
The veterinarian may kill the worms and larvae in stages if your dog has a heavy heartworm infestation. In some cases, surgery will be required to remove dead worms.
Dogs with heartworm infections are put on kennel rest. A dog with a heavy parasite load is at high risk of serious medical complications from stress, overexertion, and over-excitement.
If your dog is diagnosed with heartworms, you may need to crate your dog to reduce their activity level. Your dog's veterinarian my prescribe steroids, antibiotics, and other medications to help your dog recover from heartworm infection.
It's easier on you and your dog to prevent heartworms and have your dog tested annually for heartworms than it is to battle a late-stage heartworm infection. Be proactive this year and bring your pup in early for a full checkup and professional heartworm protection.
Schedule a friendly, compassionate dog checkup in Menomonee Falls by contacting Family Pet Clinic today. We test for heartworms and other parasites and offer canine heartworm preventives for our patients throughout Germantown and the Northwest Milwaukee region.