Sep 5, 2015

Posted by in Blog | Comments Off on Heartworm In Dogs: Should You Be Concerned?

Heartworm In Dogs: Should You Be Concerned?

Heartworm should be on the top of your list of things you want to prevent your beloved canine companion from getting. It is a devastating parasite that can burrow into the heart, lungs and circulatory system of your pet, damaging organs and leading to death. It’s spread primarily through mosquitoes.

Fortunately for many pet owners in the U.S. and Canada, heartworm isn’t all that common in colder climates, and is relatively easy to prevent with regular oral treatments for your dog. When do you need to worry about heartworm, and what can you do to prevent it?

Heartworm Cases and Outdoor Temperatures

Heartworms require certain conditions to live and spread, so they are more commonly found in warmer climates. To complete their life cycles, the worms have to have 45 days of temperatures over 57 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius). They also must have about two weeks of temperatures over 80 degrees.

This means that those in Canada and the northern U.S. states, especially in the winter, are less likely to see heartworm, but it can happen. If the weather has been warmer or if a pet from another area comes to visit, your dog can become infected with heartworms.

Those who live in a warmer part of the U.S., especially the southeastern U.S., are at greater risk of heartworm infection. It’s important to have regular tests for the worm and give your pet a preventative medication as prescribed by your vet. 

Preventing Heartworm

Heartworm cases are low in some parts of the U.S., but they are dramatically reduced among pet owners who use a monthly preventative treatment. These oral medications can be given to puppies as young as 6 weeks old, though some types of heartworm prevention are recommended for adult dogs only. Talk to your veterinarian about the best type of medication for your pet.

Depending on where you live and the health of your pet, some vets may recommend that you only give preventative medicine during the warmer months of the year. This makes sense if your area does not get above 80 degrees for at least part of the year.

It’s also wise to reduce the mosquito population as much as you can on your own property, as mosquitoes transmit the worms. 

Treating Heartworm

If the worst case happens, and your pet has a positive test result for heartworm, your veterinarian will diagnose medications that can be used to kill the worms and heal the damage they have done. These medications usually include:

  • An agent to kill the worms.
  • A steroid to help heal damage.
  • An antibiotic, because when heartworms die, they can release a bacteria that can be toxic.

Killing off the worms can take its toll on your dog’s body, so most vets will run liver and kidney function tests to make sure they can handle the stress. 

For most dog owners, regardless of where they live, the risk of heartworms is greater than the cost and hassle of giving preventative medication. Talk to your vet to find out which medications are recommended and what protocol is right for your dog.

Contact a center like Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care for more details.

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