Heartworm is an insidious disease which has spread to virtually all parts of the United States since the early 1970's. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes; thus areas heavily populated by these insects tend to have a greater incident of heartworm disease.
The common misconception of heartworms is that they are digested and moved through a pet's feces. Unfortunately, they are transferred much easier. A mosquito bites a dog that has heartworms and ingests a blood meal that contains the egg stage of the heartworm, and transfers it to another dog when the mosquito bites it. The egg stage of the heartworm is called microfilaria. Six months after the mosquito bites a dog, the microfilaria undergoes a series of molts and becomes a heartworm. The worms fill the entire right ventricle and sometimes overflow into the lungs. This results in heart failure, and other cardiovascular related problems.
There are few, if any signs of heartworm disease in the early stages. As the disease progresses, signs include coughing, lack of stamina, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. If not detected and controlled with proper treatment, heartworm can lead to congestive heart failure and death.
Heartworm disease can easily be prevented by putting your dog on heartworm preventative after a negative test. Heartworm preventative does not kill the adult heartworms, it only kills the microfilaria before they become adult heartworms. (Microfilaria to adult stage is possible within 30 days.) Once a month medications are available as a chewable or topical, and 6 month injectables administered by a veterinarian are available as well. Call us if you have questions regarding preventatives and to find out which one works best for your pet.