If you’re a dog owner, chances are good your dog is already on a heartworm preventative. But if you’re still on the fence about using this type of medication for your dog, or if you’re still just learning what you need to know before bringing a new dog home, then you might be wondering what the point is of using a heartworm preventative.
In this article, we’ll explain just why heartworm medication is so important for your dog. You’ll find out about the problems associated with heartworms and the risks of heartworm disease. Read on to learn more and if you have any questions, call Lake City Animal Hospital at (386) 755-0236.
The symptoms of heartworms range from the mild to the very severe. These symptoms are part of the reason why you should have your dog on a heartworm preventative as early as possible.
Dogs who have heartworms will develop a cough early on. This cough will grow more and more persistent as the disease progresses.
Dogs who have heartworms will become very tired and unable to do the things they used to enjoy. They will get worn out and short of breath from just a little bit of activity. The quality of life begins to go downhill then this happens.
As the disease progresses further, dogs may enter into congestive heart failure. They may be unable to breathe well even at rest anymore, and they may have multiple health problems related to the damaged heart.
Finally, dogs may develop caval syndrome in the late stages of heartworm disease. This syndrome causes blood to be unable to reach the heart because of the worms blocking it. Dogs must have emergency surgery to remove the worms, but even then, they often do not survive this late-stage heartworm disease.
Eventually, if the heartworm disease is not treated or managed, dogs will die from it.
It is, unfortunately, very easy for dogs to become infected with heartworms, and this is yet another reason why it’s so important to put your dog on a heartworm preventative as early as you can do so safely. Heartworms are caused by a type of worm called Dirofilaria immitis, which is transmitted through mosquito bites. The worm larvae are present in the mosquito’s body, and when the mosquito bites a dog, the larvae move into the dog’s body instead.
From there, the larvae become adult worms and start producing more worms very quickly. They live and breed within the dog’s heart as well as the lungs and blood vessels of the dog’s body. The infected dog is then a carrier; if a mosquito bites that dog and then bites another dog, the cycle continues all over again.
Heartworms can live up to seven years inside a dog’s body and reach up to one foot in length per individual worm. Most dogs have about 15 heartworms during an infection, but some may have over 200 depending on the severity of the heartworm disease. In some parts of the United States and around the world, heartworm disease is much more prevalent than it is in other areas.
Dogs may receive injections in the back to help kill the heartworms in their bodies. These injections contain melarsomine dihydrochloride, which itself contains arsenic. It can be very dangerous and can sometimes lead to death due to toxicity or blood clotting.
Very rarely, some dogs may be able to have their heartworms removed surgically. This does not always succeed, but it can work in specific instances. Only your veterinarian can tell you for sure whether or not it might be a possibility for your dog to undergo this type of surgery.
The best treatment for heartworms is prevention, and this is why heartworm preventative medication is so important as well. Dogs can be started on heartworm preventatives from an early age, while they are still puppies, and can be protected for the rest of their lives by keeping up with this monthly medication. There are several types of preventatives, and your vet can give you more information about which type is right for your dog.
Even if your dog is on heartworm medication, it’s important to have them tested for heartworms annually just to be sure everything is working correctly with their medication.
As you can see, heartworm prevention medication is crucial in keeping your dog safe and protected from heartworm disease. The sooner you put your dog on a preventative, the more protected they will be. It’s also important to keep up with this preventative on a monthly basis and take your dog in for a heartworm test if they’ve gone more than a month without their last treatment.
If you have any more questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call Lake City Animal Hospital at (386) 755-0236. Your vet can let you know if your dog is a good candidate for heartworm preventative medication.