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Protecting Your Dog From Heartworm

May 15, 2019
Now that we’re nearing summer, your dog is at an even greater risk of heartworm. Is your pooch protected against these dangerous pests? Learn more about heartworm and how to keep your dog safe as your Pickerington, OH vet fills you in below:

How Do Dogs Catch Heartworm?

Mosquitoes are the transmitters of heartworm. They pick up immature forms of the worm, known as microfilariae, when they bite an infested animal. In the mosquito, the microfilariae develop into larvae. Those larvae are transmitted into your dog when the mosquito bites him, where they develop into adult heartworms and start migrating through bodily tissue, eventually reaching Fido’s heart and lungs.

What are the Symptoms?

A dog might not show any symptoms at all when he’s first infested with heartworm. When symptoms do appear, they may include a persistent cough, lethargy and weakness, appetite loss, weight loss, respiratory issues, and—if treatment isn’t administered—heart failure and even death.

How is Heartworm Treated?

Blood sampling will be used to determine if your dog is heartworm-positive. If he is, treatment will be started. This involves giving medications to kill off the adult heartworms (melarsomine is commonly used) and then other medications separately (such as ivermectin) to kill the microfilariae. The treatment process comes with risks, and it can be rather time-consuming. A dog undergoing treatment for heartworms should be closely monitored throughout the process to ensure his safety.

How is Heartworm Prevented?

Clearly, it’s easier and safer to prevent a heartworm infestation rather than treat one. That’s why it’s always best that your dog is kept on a quality heartworm preventative, which works by killing off immature worms before they can develop into adults. Most of the time, it’s recommended that your dog stay on a year-round heartworm preventative; this will keep your dog protected during all months, and it helps to keep other varieties of parasitic worms at bay (roundworm, hookworm, tapeworms, etc.). Heartworm preventatives themselves come in various forms. Some are given by mouth in pill or tablet form, while others get applied topically to your dog’s skin. There’s even an injectable heartworm preventative administered by syringe at the vet’s office. Ask your vet what kind of heartworm preventative might work best for your canine companion. Want to learn more about heartworm and keeping your dog safe? We’re here for you. Make an appointment to speak with your Pickerington, OH veterinarian.