No dog is safe from heartworms. It may sound sensational but any dog can get heartworms, and Texas is among the top ten states for heartworm infections. It is imperative that you understand how heartworms are transmitted, and how to protect your pet from them.
What Causes Heartworms?
Heartworms are caused by infected mosquitoes that bite your dog and introduce worm larvae into the bloodstream. Heartworms have been found in all 50 states, and infections have increased in frequency over the last decade.
Heartworms grow slowly within the dog’s heart, taking months to mature. If they go undetected and untreated, they will eventually cause enough damage to be fatal. Unfortunately, by the time a dog starts showing symptoms, it’s usually too late.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heartworms?
It’s still important to know the symptoms well, so you can catch the disease as soon as possible. Dogs with heartworms will exhibit similar symptoms to heart failure such as:
- Weight loss
- Chest bulge
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty Exercising
All of which are serious signs that you need to get your dog to the vet immediately. Be especially alert if your dog develops a cough, it can be the earliest sign of heartworms.
How Are Heartworms Treated?
Most cases of heartworm are discovered when an owner is buying a preventative. Vets require screening for heartworms beforehand. If the dog has an active infection, these medications can’t treat it adequately.
The treatment for adult heartworms and microfilaria is intense, dangerous, and expensive. Dogs are injected with melarsomine, and if the infection is advanced enough, invasive heart surgery is required.
After treatment, your dog’s exercise will be severely restricted. Their organs are damaged, and there’s a risk of dead worms clogging their arteries or valves.
The best treatment for heartworms is using a monthly preventative that kills heartworm larvae before they can become adults. However, these medications do not kill adult heartworms and can cause fatal complications if given during an active infection.
How Do I Prevent Heartworms Effectively?
The good news about heartworms is that they are very easy to prevent. You simply give your dog a preventative pill once a month. Many of these medicines also prevent fleas and ticks too, which are problems for every dog.
The preventative pill isn’t difficult to administer. They’re chewable and quite tasty to your pup. Your dog will see it as a treat (you might even get a “sit,” or “rollover” from them first, (nothing for free!) and they will happily eat it up. For more finicky dogs like my boy Noodle, a quick wrap in a tiny piece of cheese, and it’s down the hatch!
The hardest part of preventing heartworms, besides the expense, is maintaining the pill schedule. Every month, on the same day, you need to give your dog the medicine. You have to give the preventative out regularly or it won’t be effective.
If you miss the date by a few days, don’t panic. Dogs can go a few weeks without their treatment and still be fine, just give it to them as soon as you remember. Going over a month without treatment is asking for big trouble however.
At DogBoy’s we use Trifexis to protect our own personal dogs from heartworms, fleas, and ticks. We firmly believe in using monthly preventatives to keep dogs heartworm-free. If you have any questions or concerns about how to keep your dog safe, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Mosquito by Tom
Dog At Vet by ACC
Worried Puppy by Stewart Black