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Dogs diagnosed with heartworms must undergo a series of intravenous treatments created to kill the adult worm. It is essential to test puppies as soon as they are old enough, to establish whether or not they have heartworms. If puppies test negative they should be put on prevention medication immediately to protect them against these harmful parasites. There are countless brands of heartworm medications on the market, some good options include:
• Heartguard Plus
Talk to your vet about your pet's best option and start administering the medication immediately.
How can you tell if your pet is infected with heartworms? Here are some warning signs:
• The first sign of heartworm is usually a nagging cough that is not accompanied by other signs of a respiratory infection. The coughing episodes worsen with activity.
• Gradual loss of weight
• Difficulty breathing
• Change in physical appearance (they often develop a “pot belly”) Eventually the walls of the pulmonary arteries will be become inflamed with dead worms.
Additionally, live worms in the arteries will hinder blood flow. Then, the liver and kidneys will also be hindered. A blood test administered by your vet can confirm the existence of heartworms.
Beware of mosquito season! Heartworms are not spread directly from dog to dog—the transmission of heartworms requires an intermediate host, the mosquito. Due to this fact, the spreading of heartworms coincides with mosquito season. Fully developed heartworms in an infected canine produce offspring, microfilariae, which travel through the animal's blood. When a mosquito bites an animal that has heartworms, it extracts blood containing the microfilariae. After about two weeks inside of the mosquito, the microfilariae transform into infective larvae. Then, when that mosquito bites another animal it spreads the infected larvae.
The key to keeping your pet safe is prevention. Treat your pet, have your pet tested, and put your dog on a preventative medication.
Be sure to have your pet periodically retested for disease spread by mosquitos. The standard testing recommendation is once a year. It should also be taken into consideration, however, that some animals have more exposure to mosquitoes than others.
Those residing in the south should be more aware of the health of their animals as the mosquito season is prolonged in the region. In addition, areas near bodies of freshwater (ponds, lakes, rivers, tributaries, etc.) are danger zones as these are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. No matter where you live, however, keep your pet's safety in mind.
Are you the forgetful type? Heartworm prevention is an essential part of your pet's maintenance. Heartworm disease is serious and the best treatment is prevention. Vets recommend that you place your pet on a heartworm medication schedule that will help you to keep your furry friend heartworm free.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|