Heartworm 101

Heartworm 101

As the weather continues to warm, we’re approaching peak heartworm season. It’s a serious condition that can affect both dogs and cats, although our canine friends are the most commonly affected. In this article from River Valley Veterinary Hospital, serving the Fox Chapel, PA area, learn more about heartworm and your dog.

How Are Heartworms Transmitted?

Mosquitoes pick up an immature form of heartworms, called microfilariae, when they bite an infested animal. Inside the mosquito, microfilariae develop into heartworm larvae, which get transmitted into your dog when the mosquito bites Fido. Inside your dog, the heartworm larvae mature into adult worms and start migrating through bodily tissue toward your dog’s heart and lungs.

What are the Symptoms?

It’s important to realize that an adult dog might not show symptoms of heartworm infestation for quite some time; up to six months, even. When symptoms do appear, they might include lethargy, persistent coughing, loss of appetite, weight loss, respiratory troubles, and—without treatment—heart failure and even death.

How is Heartworm Treated?

A blood sample will be taken to determine whether or not a dog is heartworm-positive. If the presence of heartworms is detected, a treatment regimen will be started. In most cases, treating the heartworm infestation will involve killing off the adult worms, and then the microfilariae separately, using medications such as melarsomine and ivermectin. Treatment can be time-consuming and risky, and your dog should be closely monitored throughout the treatment process.

How Can Heartworm Be Prevented?

Preventing a heartworm infestation entirely is a far better option for dog owners than treating one after the fact. Preventative medications work by killing off the immature worms in your pet’s body, getting rid of them before they have a chance to develop into adult worms. Veterinarians usually recommend that your dog is kept on high-quality heartworm preventative all year round, as this keeps your dog protected constantly and also helps protect against other varieties of common parasitic worms. Heartworm preventatives might be applied topically on your dog’s skin, given orally in tablet or pill form, or injected with a syringe at your vet’s office. Talk to your veterinarian to find out what kind of heartworm preventative might work best for your dog.

Does your pooch need a heartworm preventative? We’re here to help your pet get set up with everything he needs to stay healthy. Call your Fox Chapel, PA vet clinic today.

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