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Heartworm: Are your pets protected?

11-16-17 5:54 PM by Tillema Vet Clinic
Heartworm: Are your pets protected?

We all know what heartworm is, but do we really KNOW?

Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, and cats. It is caused by a parasitic worm (the heartworm) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and occasionally in the heart. These worms are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. As you might have guessed ,having a worm living in your arteries that act as a main source of blood for your lungs is never a good thing, and heartworms can cause many problems affecting the lungs, heart, liver, and/or kidneys. Any of these problems, alone or in combination, can lead to death.  Although a safe and effective treatment is available; it can be a costly and complicated process depending on how long the dog has been infected and how severe the infection is.

So how does it happen? When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it withdraws blood that contains immature heartworms(called microfilariae). These microfilariae mature inside  the mosquite to become infective larvae. When the mosquito bites another dog, the larvae enter the dog and in many cases mature into adult heartworms, which produce microfilariae and continue the life cycle.

Ok, so how do I stop this from happening to my pet? Dogs should be tested for heartworms before beginning a heartworm prevention program, or when changing from one heartworm preventative to another. Dogs that are already on heartworm preventative medication should also be tested periodically, once per year is recommended.

The “Prepatent period” for heartworm disease, which is the amount of time it takes for microfilariae to be produced, is approximately 6 to 9 months in a dog. During this time, heartworm tests will be negative even if a dog is actually infected.  Therefore, puppies younger than 6 to 9 months are generally not tested for heartworms. Ideally, puppies should be started on heartworm preventative medication, as early as their puppy check up visits, and tested when they are older than 9 months.

What if my pet is infected? Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to help ensure that the infection is cleared before permanent damage is done to the heart, lungs, or associated blood vessels. Heartworm disease can be fatal if left untreated, so early diagnosis and treatment can literally save your pets life!

 

Call or come in today to set up an appointment to get your pet started on Heartguard!