April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Heartworms, as you may know, are very dangerous parasites that take up residence in dogs’ hearts, lungs, and arteries. Heartworm infestations can cause some very dangerous medical issues in dogs. They can even be fatal. A local Roanoke, VA vet goes over the basics of heartworm infestations below.
Dogs don’t transmit heartworms directly to one another. Instead, heartworms are actually transmitted by everyone’s favorite insect: the mosquito. Mosquitos pick up infected blood from one dog, and then transmit it to another. The worms are in larval form at the time of transmission, but they grow rapidly. They reach maturity in about 6 or 7 months. At this point, they begin to multiply.
Since heartworms are carried by mosquitoes, that means that Fido can get infected anywhere there are mosquitoes … even inside your home. However, damp, marshy areas are particularly risky. Dog parks can also be hot zones. While many ordinances require dogs to be current on preventative care, this is hard to enforce. That’s why it’s so important to keep your canine pal on preventative care all year long.
Usually, coughing will be the first indication of a heartworm infestation in dogs. Other symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, weight loss, and lethargy. Fido may not feel very playful, and he may get tired after even mild activity. Severe infestations cause more severe problems, such as fainting, seizures, and heart attacks.
There is both good and bad news on this one. There are treatments available for heartworms. However, they are much more expensive than preventative care. Treatment also isn’t much fun for poor Fido, who may need to be restricted or even kenneled. Severe cases may even require surgery.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to protect your canine buddy from these terrible worms. Just keep up with his parasite control regime. If Fido isn’t currently on parasite control, he’ll need to be tested before beginning a regime. This is because the products that prevent infestations don’t kill live worms. You’ll also need to have your dog tested regularly. Unfortunately, as often happens with bacteria and parasites, some worms seem to be developing a resistance to certain products. Ask your vet for more information.
Do you have questions about heartworm preventative? Contact us, your local Roanoke, VA veterinary clinic, today!