Heartworm Disease Exposed
I do my best to read through the comments and address the concerns of the readers as I become aware of them. Often times, many people have the same concerns and also quite often previous blogs have been written that discuss these topics! Be sure to scroll through our blog to find other good information when you are in need. Sometimes I will rewrite articles on the same subject, but I want to keep things new and current. Recently pleaded with, to write an article on Heartworm Disease and I could feel the sincerity! So, in order to help save the lives of more dogs, please read on!
Heartworm is a parasitic round worm (a thread like filarids) that is spread from host to host (dog to dog) through the bites of mosquitoes. The disease spreads by mosquitoes that become infected when they bite an infected dog. While in the mosquito, the microfilaria mature into the infective larvae stage. When the mosquito then bites another animal, the larvae are deposited and migrate to the new host. The worms live in the arteries, the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart.
People in colder climates become complacent because heartworm disease may not be as prevalent, however, dogs move with their families all over the country…there may be someone in your neighborhood with a dog that just moved from the South and the dog maybe positive for heartworms and a carrier for the disease.
Ultimately there are no safe geographical areas when it comes to heartworm disease, it has been diagnosed in all 50 states! Heartworm is serious and potentially fatal! Anywhere there are mosquitoes there is risk of heartworm disease.
The clinical signs of heartworm may not be recognized in the early stages sometimes it takes months or years. Dogs that are recently exposed may exhibit no signs at all.
Heavily infected dogs may:
- Fatigue easily
- Be reluctant to exercise
- May have a decreased appetite
- Show signs of weight loss
Heartworm is usually detected with blood tests taken by your veterinarian. Most vets use an antigen test, however worms can also be seen on x-ray, ultrasound, and even swimming in the blood sample of heavily infected dogs!
Heartworm disease is totally preventable! It is best to talk with your veterinarian about the best possible drugs for your geographical area. Your vet has the best and latest information on efficacy of products available. Prevention is easy, safe and inexpensive when administered on a timely schedule. The medications interrupt the heartworms development before the adult worms reach the lungs and cause disease.
Treatment can be effective and can save lives, however heartworm treatment is extremely expensive and can, in severe cases, cause death. Adult heartworms are killed using an inject able drug through a series of treatments. Dogs must be exercise restricted and walked on leash for 2 months or more throughout the treatment. Prevention is much better than treatment!
If you read only one section in this article READ THIS!
Dogs can be infected and not show a positive test until 7 months after infection has occurred! Most vets recommend yearly heartworm tests for this exact reason let your dog be tested yearly even while on prevention so that the disease can be detected and treated early if possible! Most of these tests also test for other diseases like Lyme and Ehrlichia which are tick borne diseases.
When I was a technician, most of the major drug companies guaranteed their products (if purchased through your veterinarian, NOT purchased from drug companies online where the storage and condition cannot be verified), if you can provide proof of purchase on a timely manner, year round and reasonable administration the drug companies will pay for treatment.
Heartworm medication should be administered year round. Even in cold climates the administration of drugs is beneficial, they also often provide important de-wormings to keep your family safe. Mosquitoes don’t function on a set schedule, they flourish if the temperatures get a little warmer in February or March or stay a little longer in November or December. It is best to be safe and give it year round.
Keep your dog safe by practicing prevention! Ask for yearly heartworm tests, and keep records of your purchases and when you administered the drugs and be diligent about sticking to a schedule! You can keep your dog safe if you stick to a regiment and arm yourself with knowledge!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.