Canine heartworm disease develops when a dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying microscopic heartworm larva (juvenile worms) of a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. As a mosquito feeds, these microscopic larvae are deposited on the dog and quickly penetrate the skin to begin their migration into the bloodstream. Adult heartworms can grow 10-12 inches in length and make their home in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary (lung) arteries, often causing lung disease and heart failure. Although easy to prevent, heartworm disease continues to be a major health problem in dogs living in the United States.
The American Heartworm Society estimates that at any one time, over 1 million dogs are infected with adult heartworms in the U.S.
Some common signs of heartworm infection include coughing, difficulty breathing and sluggishness. Recently infected dogs may show NO signs of the disease.
Numerous blood tests are available for detecting heartworm infections in dogs and your veterinarian will perform the tests that are most appropriate for your dog. Keep in mind that no diagnostic test can accurately detect all heartworm infections. Tests cannot consistently detect infection until heartworms are at least 7 months old.
Annual testing is recommended for monitoring the success of any heartworm prevention program. The frequency of testing should be discussed with your Pawz veterinarian. All dogs over 6 months of age should be tested for heartworms prior to initiating a preventative program. At minimum, retesting is recommended annually or with any lapse in administration.
Heartworm preventatives are effective when given properly and on a timely schedule. Heartworm preventatives are highly effective, safe, easy to use, relatively inexpensive and often provide treatment for additional parasites. Prevention is always more safe and affordable than treating dogs with adult heartworm infections.
Please discuss heartworm preventative and flea and tick prevention with your Pawz veterinarian.