Due to a recent increase in heartworm-positive dogs, we would like to remind all pet owners about annual heartworm testing and prevention.

Many pet owners have heard of heartworm prevention, but how much do you really know about the disease?

heartworm dog diagramHeartworm is a parasitic disease which is easy to prevent, but if left untreated, can be fatal. Heartworms are mosquito-transmitted and the likelihood of an infection occurring varies based on location. Find out how prevalent parasites are in your area here.

Once a pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, the heartworm larvae are deposited and penetrated into the pet’s bloodstream. Over the next 6-7 months, these larvae will travel through the bloodstream as they mature into adult worms. Adult worms can grow up to a foot in length and will eventually lodge themselves in the heart and lungs which can cause lung disease and heart failure.

With a once-a-month flavored tablet, or topical treatment, your pet can be protected against heartworm. The prevention works by killing the larvae in the bloodstream before developing into mature worms, which is why it is important to treat every month, all year round!

Each year your dog should be tested for heartworms, as not all symptoms are obvious. It is a simple blood test that should be conducted at your pet’s annual exam. We recommend the Snap 4DX testing method which, in addition to heartworm, tests for 3 tick borne diseases – Lyme, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis.

If not detected early, heartworms will cause damage to a pet’s heart and lungs resulting in a mild persistent cough, lethargy or fatigue after light activity, weight loss, and a decrease in appetite. Over time the heart will enlarge and become less efficient. As blood flow becomes more restricted heart failure can occur, often resulting in fluid building up in the lungs or abdomen. Due to the restricted blood flow, the kidneys and liver will suffer as well.

Treating heartworm is hard on your dog, and although most survive treatment, it is still dangerous and extremely costly. There is no treatment for cats if they are infected with the heartworm parasite.

For questions, or to find out which heartworm preventative is right for your pet, please call us at (860) 489-4231.

Learn more about heartworm disease from the America Heartworm Society.